This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Background to the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
- Part 02: Organisation of the SAF.
- Part 03: Miscellaneous.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
This article provides an overview of the Special Action Force (SAF), a unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The Special Action Force is known by a number of nicknames including: SAF; PNP-SAF; and Special Action Force Commando.
The SAF is one of several elite units that form part of the PNP Special Operations Forces (SOF).
Part One of this article looks at women and the SAF, then discusses the difference between tier 1 and tier 2 forces and highlights the methods of entry. It then outlines the roles and tasks of the SAF before finally providing a brief history on its origins. Part Two looks at the organisation of the SAF, identifies some key personalities, before moving on to outline the various SOF units, and then finally some of the training courses available. Finally, Part Three provides some useful links and identifies other articles the reader may find useful.
The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the Special Action Force.
1.2 Women and the SAF
Unsure if women can join. The SAF had its biggest batch of women on 26 February 2019, with 172 women at the oath taking ceremony (Talabong, 2019).
1.3 Tier 1 and Tier 2 Special Forces
The SAF does not form part of the APF Special Operations Command and is not considered a Special Operations Force (SOF) unit, although it is considered an elite unit within the Philippines.
Some units are referred to as ‘Tier 1’ SF units because they are the units usually tasked with direct action. Other SOF are referred to as ‘Tier 2’ units as they, usually, fulfil a supporting role for the Tier 1 units.
1.4 Method of Entry
Civilians can join the SAF directly (PNP, 2019).
1.5 Roles and Tasks
The role of the Special Action Force includes a number of specialist tasks, for example (PNP, 2017):
- Conducting counter-terrorism (CT) operations;
- Conducting long range reconnaissance/surveillance operations;
- Conducting internal security operations against insurgents, dissident terrorists, and extremist groups; and
- Providing support to PNP units in the conduct of anti-criminality operations.
1.6 Brief History
Key dates include (Soliven, 2017):
- Established on 12 May 1983 by the Philippine Constabulary (PC) as the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force (PCSAF) by PC General Orders 323 (PNP, 2007).
- It was the brainchild of then AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Fidel Ramos, with the assistance of his Chief of Operations, Colonle Renato De Villa.
- De Villa directed Rosendo Ferrer and Avelino ‘Sonny’ Razon Jr. to organise a Special Action Force.
- Prior to the formal activation, 65 officers and enlisted personnel composed the initial core of command.
- In its humble beginnings, PCSAF was entrusted to then PC Major Reynaldo V. Velasco (1st SAF Commander, 1983-1987).
- Originally there were 149 PC personnel absorbed by SAF.
- From that total number, 26 were commissioned officers and the rest enlisted personnel coming from various units including the defunct PC Brigade, the Long Range Patrol Battalion (LRP), the K-9 Support Company, PC Special Organised Group, the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) of PC METROCOM, the Constabulary Off-shore Action Command (COSAC) and other PC Units.
- PCSAF existence was to systematically indoctrinate, acclimatise, and familiarise its personnel on the emerging realities of armed struggles – the gradual employment of unconventional warfare, and other specialised operations that made it a distinct unit of the PC.
- On 29 January 1991, the Philippine Constabulary merged with the Integrated National Police to form the Philippine National Police.
- The 4th Special Action Battalion (4SAB) is established.
- 3SAB was deployed in Basilan to go after notorious bandits and KFR groups.
- 1SAB, 2SAB and Special Operations Battalion (SOB) Deep Reconnaissance Company (DEER) replaced 3SAB in Basilan with primary function to restore peace and order and conduct operation against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
- “Five Special Action Battalions” were activated to augment the existing strength of the SAF (PNP, 2017, p.74).
- “The remaining quota of 2,152 was allocated to SAF with an increase to 4,072 following the directive of President RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE for the creation of additional SAF Battalion to reinforce the PNP’ s internal security campaign. A total of 2,677 applicants are undergoing screening process for immediate appointment.” (PNP, 2017, p.54).
- In 2019, the PNP advertised for the recruitment of 4,920 SAF police officers (PNP, 2019).
- Police Officer 1: CY 2017 PO1 SAF Recruitment Programme (1,920 quota).
- Police Officer 1: CY 2016 PO1 SAF Recruitment Programme (3,000 quota).
- Each May, the SAF have a month-long celebration to commemorate their anniversary, with their 36th anniversary in May 2019.
- In 2019, the PNP advertised for the recruitment of 4,920 SAF police officers (PNP, 2019).
PART TWO: ORGANISATION OF THE SAF
This part of the article outlines the organisation of the SAF, including its commander and the various units and sub-units within it.
2.1 SAF Mission
“To plan and conduct special operations as a rapid deployment force anywhere in the country [e]specially in the areas of counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, crowd control, and search and rescue and disturbance management in times of national disaster or emergencies.” (PNP, 2007).
2.2 Commander SAF
The Special Action Force is led by the Director Special Action Force, a Police Director (equivalent to a Major General, OF-7) (PNP, 2017, p.95), based at the headquarters (HQ) at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City. It can also be led by a Police Chief Superintendent (equivalent to a Brigadier General, OF-6) (PNP, 2016).
The Commander SAF reports to the Chief of the Directorial Staff, a Police Lieutenant General (OF-8), who in turn reports direct to the Chief PNP, a Police General (OF-9).
2.3 Units of the SAF
The SAF is one of 14 operational support units of the PNP.
In 2017, the SAF had approximately [NUMBER] personnel and was organised as follows (PNP, 2017):
- Force Support Battalion (FSB).
- Rapid Deployment Battalion (RDB).
- 1st Special Action Battalion (1SAB).
- 2nd Special Action Battalion (2SAB).
- 3rd Special Action Battalion (3SAB).
- 4th Special Action Battalion (4SAB) (from 1992).
- 5th Special Action Battalion (5SAB) (from ?2013).
- 6th Special Action Battalion (6SAB).
- A further five Special Action Battalions were activated in 2017 to augment existing SAF strength.
- Special Action Companies (SAC).
- Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU).
2.4 Recruitment and Training Courses for SAF
A brief outline of the recruitment process:
- Eligible candidates apply to join the PNP (PNP, 2019):
- RA 1080, CSP, PD 907, RA 6506, or PO Entrance.
- At least 21 years old but not more than 30 years old upon oath-taking (18 to 22 at time of admission as stated by PNP SAF Recruitment in 2018).
- A height of at least 1.62 metres (5ft 4in) for men and 1.57 (5ft 2in) metres for women.
- Bachelor’s degree.
- Make an online application (although applicants may personally submit application forms during weekdays).
- Philippine National Police Academy Cadet Admission Test (PNPACAT):
- aka the PNPA Entrance Exam.
- Conducted every last Sunday of October or in the 1st week of November.
- Results published, usually, on the 3rd week of December.
- The PNPACAT is competency-based, which means applicants must get passing scores or at least 50% to all subjects/areas covered in the PNPACAT to qualify for the next phase of screening.
- This means those applicants who have garnered the highest scores but failed in any of the subjects covered in the exam, will not be considered for the next phase of screening.
- Topics covered include: communication skills; logical and reasoning ability; math and sciences; general information and current events; and values and aptitude for the Service.
- Processing and screening:
- Conducted first quarter of every year.
- Psychiatric/psychological examination (PPE).
- Physical/medical and dental examination (PMDE) conducted by the PNP SAF Force Health Office (FHO) (PNP SAF Recruitment, 2018).
- Physical fitness test, known as the Physical Agility Test (PAT).
- Final interview.
- Oath-taking and Reception Rites:
- Held every May, or earlier.
- Breaking Period/New Cadet Orientation Programme:
- The 45 day Breaking Period or New Cadet Orientation Programme is conducted from May to Mid-week of June.
- Incorporation Rites:
- Held every June after Breaking period.
- Recognition Rites:
- Held every December.
- Graduation Rites:
- Usually March or First week of April.
- Basic and field training (see below).
Applicants are overseen by the PNP SAF Recruitment Section.
Training for personnel, known as SAF Troopers, is delivered by the unit at its HQ. There are a number of courses available (Nepomuceno, 2019a & 2019b; Oliva, 2019):
- Public Safety Basic Recruit Course (PSBRC) with Field Training Programme (FTP) (In-Service Training).
- 6 months in duration (Talabong, 2019).
- Field Training Programme known as the Special Action Force Commando Operations Course (SAFCOC):
- Specialisation courses, including:
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).
- Basic Airborne Course (BAC).
- Urban Counter-Revolutionary Warfare (SURESHOCK).
- Basic Underwater Search and Rescue Operations Course (BURSOC).
- SAF Seaborne Warfare Course (SSWC).
- Basic Internal Security Operations Course (BISOC):
- “The newly appointed Police Inspectors underwent the first batch of Basic Internal Security Operation[s] Course (BISOC) conducted from May 12, 2017 to August 2, 2017 by the Special Action Force to better prepare them on the challenges of the Internal Security Operations.” (PNP, 2017, p.52).
- A new specialisation course that focuses on the enhancement of the combat skills of the individual (PNP, 2017).
- Pistol Instructor Certification Course (PICC) (PNP, 2015).
PART THREE: MISCELLANEOUS
3.0 Useful Publications
- Tagligtas (meaning ‘Saviour’) is the official magazine of the SAF.
3.1 Useful Links
- Special Action Force (Official): http://saf.pnp.gov.ph/.
- SAF (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/specialactionforce/.
- SAF Recruitment (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/PNPSAFRecruitmentOfficial/.
- SAF Training Branch (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/pnpsaftb/?ref=py_c&eid=ARBnqFGPk9o3cmRYc5XqHVA7I23_UWG37oR_VJibaoJzcv4EoHAvdQn7XzISM1lduqz_eaO2EHdM4tf0.
- The Making of a SAF Commando (26 July 2015): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNS1eP6mtKQ.
- Tagaligtas: Mamasapano One Year After; a SAF Documentary Part 2 (05 February 2016): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SNS1eP6mtKQ.
PNP (Philippine National Police). (2007) About Special Action Force. Available from World Wide Web: https://web.archive.org/web/20070927220920/http://www.pnp.gov.ph/about/content/offices/central/saf/info/about/about.html. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PNP (Philippine National Police). (2015) Annual Report 2015. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.pnp.gov.ph/images/Downloads/PNPAnnualReport2015_opt_opt.pdf. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PNP (Philippine National Police). (2016) Annual Report 2016. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.pnp.gov.ph/images/Downloads/Annual-Report-2016-FINAL-COPY.pdf. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PNP (Philippine National Police). (2017) Annual Report 2017. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.pnp.gov.ph/index.php/about-us/annual-reports. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PNP (Philippine National Police). (2019) CY 2019 Patrolman Recruitment Program. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.pnp.gov.ph/images/transparency_seal/2019/NoV/Patrolman.pdf. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
PNP SAF Recruitment. (2018) Announcement!!! Published 06 November 2018. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.facebook.com/PNPSAFRecruitmentOfficial/. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].
Talabong, R. (2019) PNP gets biggest Batch of Women Recruits in SAF History. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.rappler.com/nation/224392-pnp-biggest-batch-women-recruits-special-action-force-history. [Accessed: 12 September, 2019].