MANILA, Philippines - Knowing their team was running out of bullets, one of the elite cops who died in the clash in Maguindanao “forced” his buddy to leave him “so someone could go back safely and tell their real story.”
This was how one of the survivors recounted the Jan. 25 battle to military retiree Boy Agabon, father of Police Officer 2 Chum Agabon, one of 44 slain members of Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who fought the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other rebels in Mamasapano town.
Agabon declined to identify the survivor but said the latter cried while recounting what happened. Agabon also clarified that although the survivor talked about the clash, he was not Chum’s buddy in the field.
“The survivor also told me that he was crying while he was crawling away from the area. For him to escape, his buddy was firing so that the enemies would lose their focus on the survivor,” Agabon said in Filipino.
The survivor’s buddy was wounded and could no longer walk at the time. They were also “running out of bullets while waiting for the reinforcement that never came.”
The STAR tried to talk to the survivors, but they declined because they were “disallowed” to speak to the press.
Agabon used to be deployed in Mindanao during his active service in the army. He knew that only prepared soldiers could enter the battlefield where his son died.
So when Chum’s friend called him at 9 a.m. to inform him that his son was running out of bullets while fighting the Moro rebels, Agabon prayed that his 31-year-old son could return home safely.
“When I was informed that he was dead, I could not believe it because he was trained to fight. So from Manila, I went to Zamboanga to verify his death,” Agabon said.
When Agabon got there, he asked for the list of survivors.
“When my son’s name was not in the list, I felt very sad. All I was able to do was ask, where are the reinforcements? Was there a situation planning?” he said in Filipino.
According to the survivor, the SAF immediately pulled out after killing wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan. But while leaving the site, members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacked them. This prevented the SAF troopers from successfully withdrawing.
One of the 44 heroic men of the SAF prayed the rosary with his mother through his mobile phone as the fallen troops waited for reinforcements.
Other SAF members also made frantic phone calls to their families, asking relatives to relay their distress messages to comrades and officials in the PNP as they lay helpless in the battlefield.