MANILA, Philippines - In an attempt to regain public sentiment, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday tried to console the families of the 44 elite policemen killed in Mamasapano.
"Damang-dama ko ang pakiramdam ninyo (I feel what you feel)," he said in his speech at the necrological services held at Camp Bagong Diwa.
He recalled the death of his father, the late senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. and thanked the policemen for their heroism.
But despite his recognition of their sacrifice, policemen and relatives alike expressed dismay.
Rachel Sumbilla, wife of Police Officer 3 John Lloyd Sumbilla, was among those who refused to accept the medal of valour given by the President. It was given, instead, to another relative.
"Speechless po ako kasi feeling ko matatabunan at matatabunan (yung issue)," she said. "Sa dami ng problema ng government, hindi ko alam kung ipapriotize ito."
(I am speechless because I feel that this issue may soon be forgotten. The government has so many problems; I don't know if this will even be prioritized.)
Her companion said the death of their loved ones may soon be forgotten after a couple of months.
Some of the policemen present also expressed discontentment.
After Aquino's speech, one police officer joined in on the conversation of reporters and said he could only laugh at what had transpired.
She said everyone was expecting the President to give a heartfelt speech but she was not convinced.
No one clapped, she pointed out.
What touched the hearts of the policemen was the speech of Erica Pabalinas, wife of Police Senior Inspector Ryan Pabalinas.
"All I ask right now is justice, not only for my husband, who was brutally killed but for everyone who fought and fell," she said in a loud voice.
"Mr. President, please help us," she said as Aquino looked on.
Pabalinas shed tears throughout her speech. She was trembling as she left the podium.