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Special Action Force
1200px-Special Action Force Seal.svg.png
Special Action Force Official Insignia
Active May 16, 1983 - Present
Country Philippines Philippines
Allegiance Republic of the Philippines
Branch Philippine National Police
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(s) By skill and virtue, we triumph[1]
Colors       Black berets - SAF beret
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
Director, SAF US-O8 insignia.svg Police Maj. Gen. Felipe R. Natividad
Subdued PNP patch SAF patch on black beret

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.[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 from dictatorship under Marcos to a democratic 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

SAF operators on protection duty at a medical outreach program in 2010 in Lamitan, Philippines.

  • 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 Talino (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.
  • 1993 – 3rd Battalion was deployed in Basilan.
  • March 1993 - a small team of SAF operatives recovered the NPA killing fields in Kalabigan Hills, Marag Valley
  • 1994 - 1st and 2nd Special Action Battalion and the Strong Special Action Force Deep Reconnaissance Company led by then PCINSP Ager Ontog,PCINSP Jaime Calungsud and PINSP BERNARD BANAC replaced the 3rd Battalion under PCINSP Bai Layon in Basilan with primary function to restore peace and order and conduct operation against Abu Sayyaf.
  • October 1994 – two teams from 2nd SAB under PInsp Cesar Pasiwen and PInsp Cris Mendoza neutralized Commander Arabain in Tuburan Basilan.
  • October 1994 - 1st Special Action Battalion was redeployed in Region 12 with its Battalion HQ at Sultan Kudarat.
  • October 1994 – 1st Special Action Company, 1SAB under then PInsp Willy Cayat backed by 2nd Special Action Company 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: 2nd Special Action Company (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 and the RECON COY were deployed in Negros island as primary component of Negros Island Police Task Force.
  • September 1996: 3SAB under then CINSP 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.
  • 1st Special Action Battalion 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.
  • 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 that was hit by typhoon Ketsana locally named as "ONDOY", were rescued around Metropolitan Manila, specially in Marikina City. Amongst, that were rescued in Provident Village in Marikina are the well known actress Christine Reyes and actor Richard Gutierrez.
  • 1–5 October 2009 – Typhoon Pepeng struck the country, badly hit areas are Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Baguio City again selflessly the members of the Special Action Force led by the Rescue Company the 61ST CARE Company led by PINSP DANIEL MONTALBO of FSB under the Bn Commander PCINSP TABERNILLA showed their courage and determination to save lives of the victims of Typhoon Pepeng.
  • April 20, 2010: 4 members of the PNP SAF were killed and another 5 wounded after an ambush perpetrated by the New Peoples Army in Antipolo City, Rizal. The casualties are PO1 Rami Baddungon, P01 Jesus Moral, P01 Johnald Tapitan and P01 Clifford Bacwaden.
  • January 25, 2012: Two members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and two civilians were killed after a vintage mortar bomb was improperly defused inside a welding shop in Taguig City.
  • August 10, 2012: A SAF commando was killed following an attack staged by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) lead by commander Ameril Umbra Kato in Datu Unsay town in Maguindao. The casualty was identified as PO1 Randy Dumaguing.
  • May 27, 2013: An ambush staged by the New People’s Army rebels in Allacapan, Cagayan left eight men of the PNP Special Action Force dead and 7 others wounded. Killed were PO3 Vladimir Tabarejo, PO2 Elmark Rodney Pinated, PO2 Dexter Cubilla, PO1 Erick Brioso, PO2 Angelbert Mateo, PO1 Jerome Sanchez, PO2 Jonnel Bowat and PO2 Ronald Castulo.


As of 2020, the SAF's command structure consist of the following:[12]

  • Headqarters
  • Force Support Battalion
  • Light Armor Battalion
  • 12 Special Action Force Battatlions


As designated by the Philippine National Police, the missions of the Special Action Force are the following:[11][26]

  • 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[27] Pistol
United States Colt M1911[28] Pistol
United States Colt M16[29] Assault Rifle Various variants(Some are outfitted with M203 grenade launchers)[28]
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 Galil[28] Assault Rifle
United States M4 Carbine Assault Rifle Some with M203 grenade launchers
United States M14 rifle[28] Battle Rifle
United States M1 Garand[28] Semi-auto Rifle Known to be used in the SAF's Commando Course[28]
United States SR-25[29] Sniper Rifle
Belgium FN P90[30] Submachine gun
Germany Heckler & Koch MP5 Submachine gun different variants
Israel IMI Uzi Submachine gun different variant
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[28] Assault rifle
United States Remington M700 Sniper Rifle M700P variant
United States Savage 10FP[27][31] 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[28] 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.

Command Structure

These men and women of the Special Action Force report to the following commanders:

  • the Commander-in-Chief: The President of the Philippines
  • the Chairman, National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM): The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (SILG) through:
    • the Vice Chairman & Executive Officer, National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).
    • the Undersecretary for Public Safety, Department of Interior and Local Government (UPS, DILG); and
    • the Undersecretary for Peace and Order, Department of Interior and Local Government (UPO, DILG).
  • the Chief, Philippine National Police (C, PNP) (with the rank of "Police General") through:
    • the Deputy Chief for Administration, Philippine National Police (DCA, PNP) (with the rank of "Police Lieutenant General")
    • the Deputy Chief for Operations, Philippine National Police (DCO, PNP) (with the rank of "Police Lieutenant General"); and
    • the Chief of the Directorial Staff, Philippine National Police (CDS, PNP) (with the rank of "Police Lieutenant General")
  • the Chief, Special Action Force (C, SAF) (with the rank of "Police Major General")



  1. 1.0 1.1 "SAF CELEBRATES ITS 24TH YEAR". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Philippine SF Overview". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Six things you have to learn about Philippine Special Operations Forces". Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  4. Fernando R. Ortega. "THE NEW SPECIAL ACTION FORCE COMMANDO COURSE". Force and Valor. p. 7. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  5. Aligre Martinez. "THE URBAN COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY WARFARE COURSE". Force and Valor. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  6. Rhoderick Armamento. "THE BASIC AIRBORNE COURSE". Force and Valor. p. 8. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  7. Maryanne Moll. "Through Fire and Ice". Force and Valor. p. 5. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  8. "Force and Valor Table of Contents". Force and Valor. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Performance Highlights". Philippine National Police. 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  10. Philippine Headline News Online (Phno). "Elite Special Action Force (Saf) Deployed In Makati City". Retrieved 2013-02-06. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 "About Special Action Force". Philippine National Police. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Official SAF history". Philippine National Police. Retrieved 2013-04-27. 
  13. "Special Action Force camp to rise in Pinugay". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  14. "MMDA help sought in demolition operations inside police camp". GMA Network. 2008-09-14. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  15. Cecille Suerte-Felipe (2009-01-05). "PNP, US troops to hold joint Balikatan exercises". Philippine Star. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  16. "The Origin of Wildfire". Force and Valor. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  17. "SAF Annual Report, SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS May 2003-May 2004". Philippine National Police. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  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. 
  21. "Police, Muslims to thwart Sayyaf reprisals". Sun.Star Manila. 2005-03-18. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  22. Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto (2006-10-09). "Elite military, police units to go after NPA in airport raid". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  23. Kenneth del Rosario (2007-10-26). "Police officer, 4 robbers killed in QC shootout". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  24. "Brig Gen. Danilo Lim arrested". GMA Network. 2009-11-29. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  25. "(Update) National Police in full alert". GMA Network. 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  26. "About SAF". Philippine National Police. 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  27. 27.0 27.1 "Official SAF ISTAR Course information". Philippine National Police. Retrieved 2013-04-27. 
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 28.6 28.7 "Official SAF Commando Course information". Philippine National Police. Retrieved 2013-04-27. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 "US Department of State Letter on July 7, 2004". US Department of State. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  30. Lewis, Jack; Robert K. Campbell and David Steele (2007). The Gun Digest Book of Assault Weapons (7 ed.). Krause Publications. 
  31. "Savage Model 10 Precision Rifles Used by Philippine National Police Counterterrorism Unit". Tactical Life. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 


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