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Special Action Force

The Special Action Force is the primary special forces unit of the Philippine National Police. It is formed along the lines of the British (SAS) Special Air Service, but with different recruitment and selection procedures. The SAF, over the years, has received training from the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and Critical Incident Response Group, RAID and YAMAM . The Anti-Terrorist Unit (ATU) of the PNP-SAF is responsible for nationwide Police Counter-terrorism (CT) operations nationwide. Meanwhile, the regions have specially-equipped and trained Regional Mobile Forces (RMF) which used to be the Light Reaction Unit (LRU) in Metro Manila and the Regional SAF (RSAF) in the provinces .

Members or Police trainees who undergo SAF training undergo several special military combat related training such as airborne forces training, military diving (UDT), and K-9 handling. Some of the best members of the PNP-SAF are chosen to undergo bomb disposal or Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Training, and Very Important Person (VIP) security training with the Detective and Protection Services Division of the PNP. Graduates of these courses are furthermore handpicked to join the ranks of the president's elite bodyguard unit known as the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

SAF members who are distributed either regionally or within Metro Manila are furthermore assigned to SWAT units or SWAT training units.


Created on May 12, 1983 by the former Philippine Constabulary as the Philippine Constabulary Special Action Force as a requirement of General Order 323 of Philippine Constabulary Headquarters, Fidel Ramos and Renato de Villa were the founders of the unit. 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. Out of them, 26 were known commissioned officers. Later on, they changed the name of the course to the SAF Commando Course.

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, guerillas 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 General Fabian Ver would take over ruling from Ferdinand Marcos, who had been ill during the last few days of the Revolution.


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

  • 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


Assault rifles

Submachine guns

Sniper rifles

Machine guns

Known operations

  • 1986-1989: Had conducted anti-coup operations against anti-government rebels from the Philippine military.
  • Late 1980s/1990s: First deployed to battle against NPA and MNLF rebels.
  • July 27 2003: SAF EOD experts deployed during the Oakwood Mutiny.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 . 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 . 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.
  • 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 Malacañang 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.
  • 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.
  • November 29, 2007: SAF involved in the Manila Peninsula rebellion after several SAF officers had arrested renegade soldiers, including Brigadier General Danilo Lim. Earlier, the SAF had been summoned in to barricade The Peninsula Manila.
  • Various anti-insurgent operations against the NPA.
  • Various anti-terrorist operations against the Abu Sayyaf.


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 , 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.

Name Rank Term
Reynaldo Velasco Lieutenant Colonel May 16, 1983 - February 13, 1987
Avelino I. Razon 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 - Unknown


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