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Soldiers donate P3.5M for SAF 44 beneficiaries

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Tuesday turned over P3.5 million donation to the Philippine National Police for the families of the 44 Special Action Force commandos who were killed in an encounter with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25.

In a press statement released, the AFP said military personnel from different units voluntarily donated a part of their monthly Subsistence Allowance for the beneficiaries of the slain SAF men.

"The AFP has collected the total amount of P3,565,410 that will be equally distributed to the families of the slain policemen," it said. "The donation represents the P30 personal contribution from the soldiers’ meal allowance."

Catapang turned over the donation to PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina at 8 a.m. on Tuesday at the Office of the Chief at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

In an interview on GMA News TV's "Balitanghali," Catapang said aside from the P3.5 million donation, the military will also hold a benefit concert for the SAF 44 families.

For his part, Espina was quoted in a separate statement as saying he is thankful for the donation.

“We are very thankful to our soldiers for extending a helping hand to their brothers in law enforcement. This is a generous manifestation of the bond of camaraderie that unites the military and police establishments that has been very successful in maintaining peace and order and enforcing the law.” Espina said.

On January 25, 44 PNP-SAF officers were killed in a firefight with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Eighteen MILF fighters and at least five civilians were also killed in the encounter.

The clash, which occurred despite a peace deal and a ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, erupted after the police commandos supposedly entered an MILF-controlled area to arrest Filipino bomb maker Abdulbasit Usman and Malaysian terrorist Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan. —Amanda Fernandez/KBK, GMA News