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#NasaanAngPangulo? Students flare up at Aquino

Reports from CHARITY FAITH RULLODA

#NasaanAngPangulo (Where is the President?) was the battle cry of the student leaders, organizations and student institutions of the University of the Philippines Los Baños during an indignation rally held Friday afternoon at the Oblation grounds, in honor of the 44 Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) who died in combat in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

Wearing black shirts as a form of protest and to amplify their opposition and disappointment, they condemned President Benigno S. Aquino III’s absence in the arrival of the remains of the troops on Thursday. They also called out the presence of US forces in Mindanao.

Organizations present in the event include the Southern Tagalog chapters of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, National Union of Students of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Anakbayan; College of Development Communication-based UPLB Development Communicators Society, and the College of Human Ecology Student Council.

Friday was declared a national day of mourning in honor of the fallen 44.

A student-leader leads the protests as others hold placards in condemnation of the President's actions in relation to the death of 44 PNP Special Action Force men, in a rally Friday afternoon. Photo: Charity Rulloda.

A student-leader leads the protests as others hold placards in condemnation of the President’s actions in relation to the death of 44 PNP Special Action Force men, in a rally Friday afternoon. Photo: Charity Rulloda.

These 44 elite commandos were said to have been slaughtered when their mission to capture Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a global fugitive and one of the world’s most wanted Ismlamic militants, took a turn for the worst. Instead of welcoming the remains of the policemen at the Villamor Air Base, Aquino was instead in the opening of a car factory plant in Laguna. Former President Fidel V. Ramos, who was also former chief of the then Philippine Constabulary, also attended the opening but left earlier to go to Villamor.

Newspaper and television reports indicate the presence of US troops and participation in the botched operation. A Manila Standard banner story on Friday reported that the United States provided “actionable intelligence” on where Marwan is. But Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told radio DZRH that US troops only helped retrieve the remains of the policemen in the battlefield.

The hashtag #NasaanAngPangulo was a trending topic on Twitter on Thursday as netizens notice the absence of the President in the arrival ceremonies for the fallen 44.

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