The Special Action Force (SAF) also known as “Tagaligtas” is the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) primary maneuver unit created as a highly specialized strike force to “win the hearts and minds of the people” during the 1980s.
Founded by then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Vice Chief of Staff and Philippine Constabulary (PC) Chief, Lieutenant General Fidel Valdez Ramos on May 16, 1983, SAF’s primary task was to battle insurgency and terrorism. Eventually, the unit expanded its role to battle organized crime groups and high-value target criminals. Today, its functions include the conduct of counterinsurgency operations, counter-terrorism in urban and rural areas, hostage rescue, civil disturbance management, search and rescue operations in times of disasters and calamities, and other special operations.
Formed along the lines of the British Army Special Air Service, the then PC SAF started with about 488 volunteers composed of commissioned officers and enlisted personnel selected from a wide range of PC units. Following a stringent selection process, only 120 applicants qualified to undergo the program, and out of the 120, only 44 successfully completed the then SAF Ranger Course, which through time evolved as the SAF Commando Course.
With the pressing need to ensure peace and order, internal security, and political stability of the country, SAF from a battalion gradually expanded into a brigade rapid deployment force.
Today, the PNP SAF has thirteen (13) line battalions, a force support battalion (FSB), and an Air Unit (AU) deployed in the different areas of the country fulfilling the mandate of providing tactical support to other PNP units, AFP, and other Law Enforcement Agencies.
SAF, as an elite unit, earned its reputation as one of the country’s most respected and dependable rapid deployment force through its renowned accomplishments that were etched in the history of the country over the last 37 years. These accomplishments include the unit’s role in the success of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution and its prominence as a counter-coup force against the series of coup d’état attempts in the late 1980s.
SAF has showed its competence in responding to modern-day conflicts such as the Bicutan Siege in 2005, the assault at the Peninsula Manila Hotel in 2007, and the Zamboanga Siege in 2013. The unit was involved in rescue and retrieval operations after the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. One of its toughest missions was the neutralization of identified terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir a.k.a. Marwan in 2015. It was on January 25, 2015, in Mamasapano where 44 SAF Troopers gallantly fought to the end. The heroism they displayed was duly recognized when President Rodrigo Roa Duterte declared the Day of National Remembrance for the SAF 44. SAF was also engaged in the five (5) month-long Marawi Siege in 2017.
The SAF Logo aptly represents its undying commitment to serve and protect the country. The ‘Tabak’ or jungle knife, the magnificent wing, the pristine blue sea and the sniper scope crosshair symbolize the unit‘s capability to operate by land, water, and by air whilst the dominant red color represents SAF’s glorious traditions of sacrifice for God, Country, and People.