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What is the SAF?

In My Eyes: by Edward B. Antonio

Forty four SAF officers were killed in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 25, fellas.

Since then, the country grieves in outrage of the death of the Fallen 44, the biggest one-day casualty in the history of Philippine military.

Just what is the SAF?

SAF stands for Special Action Force.

It’s an elite unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) formerly headed by resigned PNP Chief Allan Purisima. Elite denotes a minority group but possessing a greater talent, better equipment and extraordinary training.

The Special Action Force is the national mobile unit of the Philippine National Police.

It is formed along the lines of the British Army (SAS) Special Air Service, but with different recruitment and selection procedures.
The SAF, over the years, has received training from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and Critical Incident Response Group, RAID and YAMAM. The Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) of the PNP-SAF is responsible for nationwide Police Counter-terrorism (CT) operations nationwide.

Police trainees who undergo SAF training undergo several special military combat related training such as Basic Airborne Course training, Urban Counter Revolutionary Warfare (SURESHOCK), SCUBA-BUSROC (Basic Under-Water Search and Rescue Operations Course) and Internal Security (COMMANDO course).

SAF members who are distributed either regionally or within Metro Manila are furthermore assigned to SWAT units or SWAT training units.

SAF operators are trained at their camp at Fort Sto. Domingo with its Air Unit stationed at the PNP Hangar in Pasay City.

In other words, a SAF officer can fight effectively in air, land and water.

The SAF has an official magazine known as Tagaligtas.

Created on May 12, 1983 by the former Philippine Constabulary (PC) as the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force as a requirement of General Order 323 of Philippine Constabulary Headquarters, Fidel Ramos and Renato de Villa were the founders of the unit.

De Villa asked Col. Rosendo Ferrer and Gen. Sonny Razon to organize a Special Action Force, after which a training program called the SAF Ranger Course, was used to train the 1st generation of SAF operators, which had a number of 149 operatives. Out of them, 26 were commissioned officers with the others being enlisted personnel from a wide range of Group, the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) of PC METROCOM, the Constabulary Off-shore Action Command (COSAC) and other PC Units.

Later on, they changed the name of the course to the SAF Commando Course.

As told by its original members, PC SAF then can be compared to the United States Ranger by all standards. Each trooper was issued 3 pairs of US Woodland Camouflage, a long and short modern firearm with “bottomless” ammunitions and state-of-the-art equipments. Combat pay was always on time and there was adequate supply of combat shoes, mosquito nets, blankets, beddings, foams and shelter halves. All these benefits came with a high cost because each trooper was confronted with a regimented life and very challenging field duties that became the cornerstone of today’s élan and prestige PC units such as the defunct PC Brigade, the Long Range Patrol Battalion (LRP), the K-9 Support Company, PC Special Organized of the SAF as a unit.

Initially formed to battle against NPA and former MNLF guerillas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, their tasks have been expanded to battle against organized criminal groups, terrorists, guerrillas and common criminals.

Those who were killed in Mamapasano were products of these trainings, fellas.

They were the best breed of policemen designed to attack and counterattack.

(To be continued)