Ilocos Norte provincial government pays tribute to SAF survivors as ‘modern Ilocano heroes’

(With reports from Jennifer T. Pambid and J Michael Mugas, PGIN-CMO)

LAOAG CITY – Last March 10, 2015, Governor Imee R. Marcos led an honorary tribute for SPO1 Allan Lampitoc Franco and PO2 Jovalyn Lozano, two members of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos who survived the Mamasapano encounter last January 25, 2015.

Earlier, Governor Imee Marcos, Muslim leaders, police officers, provincial and municipal officials and employees paid tribute and recognition to PO2 Omar A. Nacionales, a native of Barangay Escoda, Marcos, Ilocos Norte, who was one of those 44 police commandos slain in that encounter with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Aside from the P100,000 cash assistance given to the bereaved family of Nacionales, the provincial government gave scholarship grants to two siblings of PO2 Nacionales to complete their education.

A resolution was also passed by the provincial board recognizing the heorism of Nacionales for risking his life to capture two international terrorists on that fateful day in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Tribute to two modern heroes

The tribute, which was personally attended by SPO1 Franco and PO2 Lozano together with their families, coincided with the inauguration of the shrines of the second batch of Ilocano Heroes walk which honors Ilocanos who brought fame and glory not only to the province but to the country in the past century.

In her speech, Governor Imee said that “we have heroes like Omar A. Nacionales who was one of the SAF commandos who died during the Mamasapano encounter…we still have living heroes (SPO1 Franco and PO2 Lozano) who we have with us today and we will honor them by exemplifying the definition of heroism in this modern day.”

Marcos who proclaimed SPO1 Franco and PO2 Lozano as “modern Ilocano heroes” encouraged everyone “to ponder the meaning of heroism today, in our lives, everyday as we struggle to make life meaningful and somehow heroic.”

Franco and Lozano were part of the SAF team on a mission to capture Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists and Abu Sayyaf member Abdul Bassit Usman.

“[Sa] SAF, mga Ilocano ang inaasahan, tayo ang walang kaba sa dibdib kapag nasa operasyon,” PO2 Lozano, who became a part of PNP-SAF in 2008, said.

SPO1 Franco who entered the PNP-SAF in 2003 said that “the courage and bravery of Ilocanos during special operations of SAF is unquestionable.”

Franco and Lozano said that their childhood experiences in Ilocos Norte “prepared and strengthened them before they entered SAF.”

“I learned many important things in Banna. When I was growing up, I helped in the farm…doing the usual Ilocano farming practices. I have been using them during SAF operations,” said SPO1 Franco in Ilocano.

Franco, 36, who has roots in Banna, Ilocos Norte, last visited the province twelve years ago. Despite being born in South Cotabato, he considers Ilocos Norte as his hometown.

He was appointed as instructor at SAF Training School for 2008 and 2009. Since then, he participated in several operations of PNP-SAF and played an important role in the operation that eventually led to the killing of Marwan.

Meanwhile, PO2 Lozano was born and grew up in Adams, Ilocos Norte.

“Lumaki ako doon, naghirap ako doon, lahat ng experience ko sa Adams, yun ang taglay at baon ko sa lahat ng operations na pinupuntahan ko,” he said.

PO2 Lozano served as the ‘point man’ during the encounter and suffered a wound on his left shoulder because of a bomb explosion. He was also one of the commandos who fought during the Zamboanga siege.

Sa lahat ng laban na pinuntahan ko, tanging parangal lang na natatanggap namin [ng mga kasama ko] ay palakpak ng mga tao at hindi ko makakalimutan ang parangal na ito,” said PO2 Lozano.

Courageous sons of the province

SPO1 Franco and PO2 Lozano expressed their profound gratitude to the provincial government of Ilocos Norte for the honors they did not expect to receive.

Both of them received cash incentives from the provincial government and one of their relatives who are currently residing in Ilocos Norte will be granted a full-scholarship at Mariano Marcos State University.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan also approved a resolution declaring them as courageous sons of Ilocos Norte and commending them for their bravery and willingness to sacrifice their lives to save thousands of Filipinos.
“We’re very proud of them and we want them to know that even if we have very little opportunity to show our thanks, we commend them for keeping our country safe,” said Governor Imee.#