MANILA, Philippines—“Mike one, bingo.”
Those three words texted to the PNP Special Action Force officer-in-charge Chief Supt. Noli Taliño and the rest of the Tactical Command Post mean their men had just taken out their target, the wanted terrorist Zuklifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
Hundreds of SAF commandos were secretly deployed to Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Sunday to serve warrants of arrest against Marwan and another militant, Abdul Basit Usman.
However, what should have been a cause of celebration quickly turned into a nightmare when the elite cops found themselves surrounded by the combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (M.I.L.F.) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Speaking at Friday’s eulogy for the fallen 44 commandos who died in the subsequent clash, Taliño recalled how he and everyone at the Command Post including then-SAF Chief Police Director Getulio Napeñas were initially elated at the mission’s success.
Their happiness was short-lived, however, as the commandos radioed the gathering of a large number of enemy fighters who began engaging them in a fierce firefight.
Amid the whizzing of bullets and bursts of gunfire, Taliño could hear the voice of the radioman, Senior Inspector Ryan Pabalinas, giving him updates and pleading for reinforcements.
During that time, he and Napeñas were desperately trying to think how to immediately extract the surrounded lawmen. The frenzied radio messages made getting their exact coordinates difficult, too.
Unfortunately for the commandos, helped arrived too late for most of them as army units backed by tanks only arrived at the battlefield at 1 PM.
Suddenly, the frantic radio messaging stopped abruptly and there was nothing but silence. It was then Taliño realized he would never hear that voice again.
Visibly trying to hold back his tears, he told the mourners: “After the battle I realized, that voice will never be heard again, and I know that voice belonged to Ryan (Pabalinas).”