Special Action Force

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Special Action Force
Special Action Force Seal.svg
Special Action Force Official Insignia
Active May 16, 1983 - Present
Country Philippines Philippines
Allegiance Philippines Republic of the Philippines
Type Special Forces
Role Domestic Counter-Terrorism and Law Enforcement, Raids, Commando-type Unconventional Warfare
Size Classified
Part of Directly under control of the Philippine National Police
Garrison/HQ (Main) - Fort Sto. Domingo, Sta. Rosa, Laguna
(Camp) - Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, Metro Manila
Nickname(s) SAF, Tagaligtas (Saviors)
Motto By skill and virtue, we triumph[1]
Colors       Black berets - SAF beret
Anniversaries 16 May
Engagements Anti-guerrilla operations against the New People's Army and formerly the Moro National Liberation Front before taking on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front

Anti-terrorist operations against the Abu Sayyaf
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines) Streamer.png
Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation Badge
Police Chief Superintendent Virgilio Moro Lazo
See Commanders Section
PNP SAF Beret Patch
Saf Patch.jpg
SAF Badge.png

The Special Action Force is the National Mobile Unit of the Philippine National Police founded by Fidel V. Ramos. It is formed along the lines of the British Army (SAS) Special Air Service, but with different recruitment and selection procedures.[2][3] The SAF, over the years, has received training from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and Critical Incident Response Group, RAID and YAMAM.[2][3] The Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) of the PNP-SAF is responsible for nationwide Police Counter-terrorism (CT) operations nationwide.

Members or 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).[4][5][6]

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[7] with its Air Unit stationed at the PNP Hangar in Pasay City.[1]

The SAF has an official magazine known as "Tagaligtas".[8]


Created on May 12, 1983 by the former Philippine Constabulary as the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] Out of them, 26 were known commissioned officers with the others being enlisted personnel from a wide range of PC units such as the defunct PC Brigade, the Long Range Patrol Battalion (LRP), the K-9 Support Company, PC Special Organized Group, the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) of PC METROCOM, the Constabulary Off-shore Action Command (COSAC) and other PC Units.[11] Later on, they changed the name of the course to the SAF Commando Course.[11]

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.

During the days of the EDSA Revolution, Fidel Ramos was involved in planning an operation called "Exercise Ligtas Isla" (Exercise Save Island) in case either Imelda Marcos or Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver would take over ruling from Ferdinand Marcos, who had been ill during the last few days of the Revolution.[11] When Corazon Aquino became president, the SAF was mandated to be on standby due to the number of coup attempts by rogue Philippine soldiers.[12]

In January 29, 1991, President Aquino signed Republic Act 6975 into law, which changed the name of the SAF from the PC-SAF to the PNP-SAF as a part of transition of government.[12]

Following recent changes, the SAF will move to a permanent camp at Barangay Pinugay, Baras, Rizal under Proclamation No. 1355 passed on August 2007[13] from their camp in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.[14]

For the first time, SAF operators are involved in the Balikatan exercises in 2009 since American and Filipino troops are usually involved.[15]

Known operations[edit]

SAF operators on protection duty at a medical outreach program in 2010 in Lamitan, Philippines.
A statue in honor of the 44 men the unit lost during the Mamasapano clash
  • February 1986: EDSA Mutiny.
  • 1986–1989: Had conducted anti-coup operations against anti-government rebels from the Philippine military.[16]
  • Late 1980s–1990s: First deployed to battle against NPA and MNLF rebels.
  • May 1987 - Then PC-SAF, under Major Avelino Razon Jr, the unit was deployed in Ifugao to conduct operations against the CPP-NPA.
  • 1987 - PC-SAF (2SAC & 4SAC) deployed in Negros Island and conducted successful operations against the NPA's and effected the surrender of considerable numbers of the New People's Army operating in Negros Oriental. The two special action companies, 2SAC and 4SAC were led by then 1LT Taliño (2SAC) and (4SAC)1LT Josephus Angan and 1LT Ramon Mateo Dizon, now a Brig General and the current PSG Commander under President Benigno Aquino III.
  • 1992 - newly created 4SAB under PSupt Abraham Garcillano and PCI Emmanuel Caeg was placed attached with Western Police District to assist in neutralizing criminal elements involved in robbery/hold-up of banks and pawnshops, including armored cars. 1SAC, 4SAB led by PInsp Adriatico del Camat and PInsp Bernard Banac was deployed in Ermita, Manila; while, 2SAC, 4SAB led by PInsp Constancio Item and PInsp Bernardo Rosario was deployed in Sampaloc, Manila.
  • 1993 - 3SAB was deployed in Basilan to go after notorious bandits and KFR groups.
  • March 15, 1993 - a small team of SAF Troopers led by PInsp Clemente Vargas and PInsp Bernardo Rosario recovered the NPA killing fields in Brgy Kalabigan Hills, Marag Valley, Luna, Kalinga-Apayao
  • 1994 - 1SAB led by PCInsp Agner Ontog, 2SAB led by PCInsp Jaime Calungsud, and Special Operations Battalion (SOB) Deep Reconnaissance Company (DEER) led by PInsp Bernard Banac and PInsp Rodolfo Castil Jr (Cav) replaced the 3SAB under PCInsp Bai Layon in Basilan with primary function to restore peace and order and conduct operation against Abu Sayyaf.

1994 - PSupt Samson Tucay, Commander of the Special Operations Battalion (SOB) sent the Light Armor Coy ("Bubuyog" LAC) led by PInsp Bernardo Rosario (Cav) and PInsp Ramil Montilla (Cav) to Zamboanga and Basilan to provide fire support to SAF units under the Mindanao Police Task Force (MPTF).

  • 1994 - PInsp Joseph Plaza and PInsp Parena were among those to head the SAF Training Group in Basilan to conduct the Special Action Force Operations Course (SAFOC).
  • October 1994 – two teams from 2SAB under PInsp Cesar Pasiwen and PInsp Cris Mendoza neutralized Commander Arabain in Tuburan Basilan.
  • October 1994 - 1SAB was redeployed in Region 12 with its Battalion HQ at Sultan Kudarat.
  • October 1994 – 1SAC, 1SAB under then PInsp Willy Cayat backed by 2SAC under PInsp Tellio Ngis-o successfully took over the Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation project from Muslim Rebel Group led by Commander Damskie. Then PInsp Victor Arevalo and other PNCOs were wounded. A bomb technician expert who was recovering/disarming anti-personnel mines was killed by a sniper fire.
  • December 1994 - 2SAC led by then PInsp Ngis-o with Junior Officers PInsp Argel Ancheta, PInsp Jech Abecia, PInsp Chito Bersaluna, PInsp Kirby John Kraft, PInsp Ricardo Javier, PInsp Jacob Macabali, PInsp James Cristobal Coy Ex-O and PInsp Joel Limson COP of Carmen Cotabato with the support from 3SAC, successfully liberated the barangays of Tupig and Tonganon, Carmen, North Cotabato from the control of Muslim Rebel Group that occupied the said barangays after they were displaced from Malitubog-Maridagao Dam. Police Officers Ycoy and Pellobello who were of Blocking Force were killed in the said operations. The 2SAC, 1SAB was awarded as Best Operating Company by the Regional Police Office 12 (PRO12).
  • June 1995: 1SAB, 2SAB, 3SAB,4SAB, SOB DEER Coy led by PInsp Banac and PInsp Castil, and SOB "Bubuyog" LAC led by PInsp Rosario and PInsp Montilla were deployed in Negros island as primary component of Negros Island Police Task Force.
  • September 1996: 3SAB under then PCInsp Roman Felix was redeployed in SBMA-Bataan area to conduct clearing operations as part of security preparation for APEC.
  • 31st Coy of 3rd Battalion was attached to PA 24th IB under then Maj Emmanuel Bautista to conduct joint combat raids in the town of Balanga. Orion Bataan and nearby area. It has been transferred to Mauban Quezon to support the Local Police Unit in the area.
  • March 1995 the RECON COY under then PSI RONALD SANTOS were deployed to Nueva Ecija for election duty and was responsible for many accomplishment to name a few,the arrest of then mayor joson and his thirteen bodyguards who were responsible in the killing of late mayor PEREZ a political opponent of the josons.
  • In 1997 the RECON COY under then PSI WILLY CAYAT was deployed in Davao Del Norte at Mount Diwalwal to restore peace and order and conduct police operation with regard to the in-coming explosive components, the miners used in their operation of mining gold in mount diwalwal.
  • 1SAB under then PSUPT Benjie Magalong were figured in numerous special operations such as raids on high-profile lawless elements and hostage rescue operations in cooperation with Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF). Its Counter-Terrorist Unit was figure in series of raids against New People's Army that resulted in neutralization of some of its leaders.
  • July 27, 2003: SAF EOD experts deployed during the Oakwood Mutiny.[17]
  • August 25, 2003: Several SAF units were deployed in Makati after heavily armed bank robbers attacked the headquarters of Citibank Philippines.
  • September 23, 2003: A joint raid by the SAF, the CIDG, the Intelligence Group (IG), the Traffic Management Group, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the Army Intelligence and Security Group (AISG) and the Marines assaulted Palar Village in Taguig, netting a bank robbery gang made up of ex-AFP soldiers believed to be responsible for the Citibank Philippines robbery.[18]
  • September 28, 2003: Protection for US President George Bush during his visit to the Philippines.
  • October 2, 2003: Arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist, Taofek Refke.[9]
  • March 10, 2004: SAF teams engaged NPA guerrillas in a gunfight alongside soldiers of the Philippine Army's 24th Infantry Battalion Sitio Caarosipan, Barangay Apostol, San Felipe town. 8 NPA guerillas were confirmed killed. A single SAF officer was killed on the spot with 3 injured.
  • April 28, 2004: Arrest of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Muslim community in Culiat, Quezon City.
  • March 18, 2004: SAF Commando Class 27 composed the 24th company of 2nd Battalion were deployed in North Cotabato (Buliok Complex) as requested by Governor Pinol to serve as a peace negotiator between the government and the MILF rebels and also served as security during the 2004 presidential election in the province of north cotabato.
  • May 31, 2004: Protection of ballot boxes used in the May 10, 2004 presidential elections.
  • June 11, 2004: SAF teams deployed in a resettlement area in Taguig, Rizal province after reports of snipers were made to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
  • June 20, 2004: A SAF officer was killed when the SAF and the Provincial Mobile Group engaged an NPA squad in a gunfight in Zambales province.
  • July 17, 2004: A group of phone hackers, consisting of Filipino and foreign nationals, were arrested in a raid conducted by the SAF.
  • July 28, 2004: Provided security for ex-Abu Sayyaf hostage Gracia Burnham, who testified against the terrorist group in a local courthouse.
  • September 27, 2004: SAF teams deployed in the Cordillera in order to disarm various Partisan Armed Group (PAG) gunmen in the employ of several local prominent politicians.
  • January 30, 2005: Arrest of various kidnap-for-ransom gang members in Batangas City
  • February 10, 2005: A bank robbery gang was arrested during a raid in San Fernando City, Pampanga.
  • March 15, 2005: SAF and PNP SWAT teams raided the Metro Manila Rehabilitation Center of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City after it was captured by Abu Sayyaf inmates. Among those killed were Alhamser Limbong alias Commander Kosovo, Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot; Nadzmi Sabdullah alias Commander Global; and Sadit Abdul Ganit Husim alias Commander Lando.[19] For a short time, various human rights group in the Philippines and abroad have accused the SAF of police brutality and were convinced that the PNP really wanted to kill them at the start of the crisis. PNP officials have denied all charges.[20] Various foreign groups abroad (possibly other special ops units) have praised the SAF for bringing a quick end to the 30-hour crisis. This was one of the SAF's publicly known operations to be on the headlines on newspapers and on TV news reports worldwide, especially on CNN. PO1 (Police Officer 1) Abel P. Arreola was the only SAF operative killed during the attack.[21]
  • February 17, 2006: SAF units are deployed in Southern Leyte as part of a humanitarian contingent of the PNP.
  • February 21, 2006: SAF units patrol grounds of Malacañan Palace after an explosion occurred in the grounds of the Palace, said to be from a trash can.
  • February 24, 2006: SAF units on red alert after coup attempt was discovered.
  • October 9, 2006: SAF units deployed in Negros Occidental after New People's Army rebels attacked the Silay City airport.[22]
  • January 11–14, 2007: SAF units had been present in Cebu during the 12th ASEAN summit in Metro Cebu.
  • October 26, 2007: Senior Inspector Fermar Ordiz, a PNP SAF operative was shot and killed by robbers in Cubao, Quezon City during a shootout despite wearing a kevlar vest.[23]
  • November 29, 2007: SAF involved in the Manila Peninsula rebellion after several SAF officers had arrested renegade soldiers, including Brigadier General Danilo Lim.[24] Earlier, the SAF had been summoned in to barricade The Peninsula Manila.[25]
  • June 13, 2007: Police Officer 2 Marlon Buslig, a PNP SAF operative was shot and killed by Abu Sayyaf firces in Indanan, Sulu during a combat operation despite wearing a kevlar vest.
  • Various anti-insurgent operations against the NPA.
  • Various anti-terrorist operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
  • December 5, 2008 - ten suspected criminals, one policeman, and five civilians, a total of sixteen people, including a seven-year-old girl, were killed in a bloody shootout in Parañaque.
  • 26–30 September 2009 – Heroic Acts of Special Action Force 61ST Calamity Assistance Rescue Recovery Relief and Emergency (CARE) Company of Force Support Battalion (FSB) under the leadership of PCINSP BYRON T TABERNILLA, on that unsought day the SAF Troopers of CARE manifested through actions their battle cry and mission statement "MAGHANAP-SUMAGIP-MAGLIGTAS". A huge number of people hit by Typhoon Ketsana, locally named as "ONDOY", were rescued around Metropolitan Manila, specially in Marikina City. Among those rescued in Provident Village in Marikina were actress Christine Reyes and actor Richard Gutierrez.
  • April 20, 2010 - 4 members of the PNP-Special Action Force were killed during an ambush by the New People's Army in Antipolo City, Rizal. 5 other policemen were wounded.[26]
  • May 27, 2013 - 8 members of the PNP-Special Action Force were killed, 7 others were wounded during an ambush perpetrated by the New People's Army in Allacapan, Cagayan.[27][28]
  • January 25, 2015 – 44 members of the PNP-Special Action Force were killed by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, while 12 other police officers were wounded in action. The incident saw one of the highest fatality counts among Philippine government forces in a single peacetime operation.[29]


As of 2013, the SAF's command structure consist of the following:[12]

  • Headquarters
  • Combat Support Unit
  • Recon Battalion
  • 3 Special Action Force Battatlions


As designated by the Philippine National Police, the missions of the Special Action Force are the following:[11][30]

  • To develop, organise and train organic personnel in the furtherance of the assigned mission.
  • To conduct Counter-Terrorist operation in urban and rural areas.
  • To conduct commando type unconventional warfare (CUW) against lawless elements over extended periods of time with minimal direction and control.
  • To conduct search and rescue operations anywhere in the country during calamities and catastrophes.
  • To conduct civil disturbance management (CDM) operations and address the requirements of stability and security operations in times of civil disobedience on a national scale.
  • To operate as a rapid deployment force ready and capable to strike anytime and anywhere in the country in support of other units and other agencies as higher headquarters may direct.
  • To perform other tasks as the Chief PNP may direct.
  • To maintain a reasonable degree of law and order in the national highways and major thoroughfares


Special Action Force operators undergo CQB training while wearing respirators.
Weapon Type Notes
Austria Glock 17[31] Pistol
United States Colt M1911[32] Pistol
United States Colt M16[33] Assault Rifle Various variants(Some are outfitted with M203 grenade launchers)[32]
Philippines Special Operations Assault Rifle (SOAR) Assault Rifle
Philippines Marine Scout Sniper Rifle Sniper Rifle Night Fighting Weapon System variant
France GIAT FAMAS Assault Rifle G2 Variants
Germany Heckler & Koch G36 Assault Rifle
Germany Heckler & Koch UMP Submachine gun
Israel IMI Tavor TAR-21 Assault Rifle TAR-21 and CTAR-21 Variants
Israel IMI Galil[32] Assault Rifle
United States M4 Carbine Assault Rifle Some with M203 grenade launchers
United States M14 rifle[32] Battle Rifle
United States M1 Garand[32] Semi-auto Rifle Known to be used in the SAF's Commando Course[32]
United States SR-25[33] Sniper Rifle
Belgium FN P90[34] Submachine gun
Germany Heckler & Koch MP5 Submachine gun different variants
Israel IMI Uzi Submachine gun different variants
Italy Benelli M4 Super 90 Semi-automatic Shotgun
United States Mossberg 500 Shotgun
United States Remington 870[citation needed] Shotgun
United States Barrett M82 Barrett rifle Anti-materiel rifle M82A1 Variant
Germany Heckler & Koch MSG-90 Sniper Rifle
Israel IMI Galil ARM Sniper[32] Assault rifle
United States Remington M700 Sniper Rifle M700P variant
United States Savage 10FP[31][35] Sniper rifle
Belgium FN Minimi Light Machine Gun Issued both standard Minimi and Para variant
Singapore ST Kinetics Ultimax 100 Light Machine Gun
United States US Ordnance M60[32] General Purpose Machine Gun
South Africa Vektor SS-77 General Purpose Machine Gun Mounted on Land Rover Defenders


The SAF could call on the support of the PNP and its own Air Unit as its method of transportation via helicopter, as done under General Order 0405,[9] or via vehicles such as the M998 Humvee, mounted with a Browning M2 machine gun on top, modified Ford F-150s, and the V-150 Commando APC as a form of armed support. Land Rover Defender jeeps are also used by the SAF, modified to house a Browning M2 machine gun and a Vektor SS-77 machine gun on the passenger seat for the former. Various helicopters in service with the SAF's Air Unit are tasked with various duties, from transportation to surveillance and reconnaissance.

New armored vehicles similar to those used by banks were introduced to the SAF as a primary means of armored transportation in urban areas, and some models are used as mobile command posts.


The list are the directors who had commanded the SAF.[36]

PDIR Carmelo E Valmoria PNP is one of the former chiefs of the PNP-SAF.
Reynaldo Velasco Lieutenant Colonel May 16, 1983 - February 13, 1987
Avelino I. Razon Jr. Major February 14, 1987 - August 1, 1989
Hermogenes E. Ebdane, Jr. Police Chief Superintendent August 2, 1989 - February 11, 1991
Enrique T. Bulan Police Chief Superintendent February 12, 1991 - March 8, 1992
Dictador L. Alqueza Police Chief Superintendent March 8, 1992 - June 5, 1992
Recaredo A. Sarmiento III Police Chief Superintendent June 6, 1992 - August 2, 1994
Edgar B. Aglipay Police Chief Superintendent August 2, 1994 - June 6, 1996
Marcelo E. Navarro Jr Police Chief Superintendent June 16, 1996 - August 23, 1998
Jose O. Dalumpines Police Chief Superintendent August 14, 1998 - February 14, 2001
Rogelio B. Bathan Police Chief Superintendent February 14, 2001 - September 13, 2002
Servando M. Hizon Police Chief Superintendent September 14, 2002 - December 27, 2003
Silverio D. Alarcio Jr. Police Chief Superintendent December 27, 2003 - September 8, 2004
Marcelino F. Franco Jr. Police Chief Superintendent September 9, 2004 - February 26, 2006
Silverio D. Alarcio Jr. Police Chief Superintendent February 26, 2006 - May 18, 2006
Leocadio SC Santiago Jr. Police Director March 2007 - 2011
Catalino S. Cuy Police Director 2011 - June 2012
Getulio P. Napeñas Police Director December 11, 2013 - January 27, 2015
Noli Taliño Police Chief Superintendent January 27, 2015 – March 4, 2015
Moro Virgilio Lazo Police Chief Superintendent March 4, 2015 – present



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  18. ^ Miko Santos (2003-09-23). "Police arrest 9 bank robbery suspects". Sun.Star Manila. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  19. ^ Oliver Teves (2005-03-16). "At least 23 die in Manila jail raid". The Standard. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  20. ^ May Vargas. "Camp Bagong Diwa Likened to Auswichtz". Bulatlat. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
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  23. ^ Kenneth del Rosario (2007-10-26). "Police officer, 4 robbers killed in QC shootout". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
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  26. ^ http://www.philstar.com/nation/567943/4-saf-men-killed-5-hurt-npa-ambush
  27. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/310243/news/regions/8-elite-cops-killed-7-others-hurt-in-npa-ambush-in-cagayan
  28. ^ http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/05/27/13/8-elite-cops-killed-cagayan-npa-ambush
  29. ^ http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/417613/news/nation/roxas-44-killed-12-wounded-in-mamasapano-misencounter | title=Roxas: 44 killed, 12 wounded in Mamasapano ‘misencounter’ | publisher=GMA Network | date=January 27, 2015 | accessdate=January 27, 2015
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