The five-month campaign to liberate Marawi City in 2017 from the hands of Daesh-inspired Maute Group is a “global symbol of defiance against terror”, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said.
“Marawi is a victory not just for us Filipinos as it stands as a global symbol of defiance against terror. For more than a hundred days, the world’s eyes were momentarily fixed on a city that showed one of the worst of urban battles in our nation’s history yet it must be highlighted that it was able to bring the best in us as a people,” Gapay said in his speech at the ceremonies Monday night in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City that recognized some of the heroes who helped in the liberation of Marawi City.
The Marawi siege, which started on May 23 and ended on Oct. 17, saw the death of 168 military and other security personnel. The five-month long battle also resulted in the death of an estimated 847 terrorists.
Gapay said the siege was proof that while the military advocates peace, it would never hesitate to defend Filipinos and the country from terrorism.
“And to every enemy of our nation, let Marawi be a reminder of what the fierce Filipino fighting spirit can do,” he said.
For their contribution to Marawi City’s liberation, 18 military personnel were recognized with medals. Gapay, representing President Rodrigo Duterte, donned the medals to the awardees.
The Order of Lapu-Lapu Rank of Kamagi was awarded to Brig. Gen. Fabian Pedregosa and Col. Randy Pascua.
The Kamagi Medal was conferred to the awardees for their exemplary service rendered in significantly advancing the advocacy of the President.
Decorated with Distinguished Conduct Star for their “acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry in action” were Col. Jose Jesus Luntok, Capt. Arnel Lozada, 2Lt. George Francisco, and S/Sgt. Roland Saludes.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, Brig. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., Col. Pompeyo Jason Almagro, Col. Antonio Rota Jr., Lt. Col. Jason Jumawan, Maj. Christopher Manimtim, Lt. Commander Noah Torres, Capt. Jennylyn Tamacay, and Cpl. Eric Collado were awarded the Chief-of-Staff AFP Commendation Medal and Ribbon.
The award is given in due recognition of the awardees’ “extraordinary acts of service and exceptional contributions” to the country through various military operations for almost five months against Maute terrorists in the liberation of Marawi City.
The Chief of Staff AFP Commendation Medal and Ribbon was also granted to the 55th Engineer Brigade for their “meritorious and valuable achievements” in the pursuit of providing engineering support operation in Marawi City that led to various socio-economic achievements.
For being wounded in action as members of the Special Forces Operations Course Class 135-16 against an undetermined number of terrorists, Army Cpls. Edison Caturan and Johnson Federizon were also recognized with the Wounded Personnel Medal.
Dr. Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay was the lone civilian and awardee of the Order of Lapu-Lapu Rank of Magalong.
Meanwhile, Luntok, the former commander of 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, delivered a testimonial to honor the late Army Capt. Rommel Sandoval who died in the battle.
Sandoval was posthumously awarded the Philippines’ highest military award for courage, the Medal of Valor, on December 20, 2017. He was given the nation’s highest decoration as he was hit by enemy gunfire trying to save one of his men.
He used his body to shield an injured comrade as the enemy continued to fire on their location.
Sandoval also did not leave his men behind even in his final moments. He was among the heroes who were given tribute during an earlier ceremony in front of the Heroes Memorial in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Gapay, along with major service commanders, laid wreaths at the monument as soldiers performed a 21-gun salute in honor of their comrades who died for the liberation of Marawi.
“Your sacrifices and those of our fallen comrades have not been in vain as you have carved your marks deep in our history. And these shall continue to serve as a testament to our unrelenting and shall also serve as inspiration in our continued fight against threats to our country’s peace and security,” he said.
“It is truly an honor to stand here and be in the presence of these heroes; the very men and women who, without any reservation, have put the welfare of the people of Marawi before their own; who endured days and nights of fighting on the ground while carrying the heavyweight of the future of a city on their shoulders,” Gapay added.
Also invited to virtually speak was Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra who conveyed his gratitude to the soldiers for helping in the liberation of the battle-scarred city as well as its ongoing rehabilitation. (Priam Nepomuceno, PNA)