Troops pullout starts in Marawi

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has started withdrawing forces as the fighting against the Daesh-inspired Maute group nears end in Marawi City.

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, on Friday spearheaded the send-off ceremony as the Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion departed the besieged city of Marawi.

Galvez awarded Silver Cross Medal to Lt. Col. Christopher Tampus, 1st Infantry Battalion commander, during the send-off ceremony held at 7 a.m. amid the drizzle in Camp Ranao, Marawi City.

Similar medals were also awarded to the three company commanders as well as Command Plaque to the same Army Battalion.

“Maintain the highest dignity of a soldier. As much as we want to have you here, we need to let you go. Our oath is to serve the people and maintain the integrity of our country,” Galvez told the troops during the send-off ceremony.

Tampus also rendered a completeness report to Galvez and Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag, Joint Task Force Marawi commander.

“I laud the men and women of the 1st Infantry Battalion for their dedicated service and for being here at the onset of the Marawi siege. My gratitude to you for a job well done,” Pamonag said.

A showdown inspection was also conducted during the send-off ceremony. The showdown was to ensure that the troops have not taken any valuables from the main battle area.

The Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion is returning to Luzon for an impending unit enhancement training.

The battalion was among the unit of troops to reinforce the soldiers in Marawi City during the earlier stage of fighting.

The fighting broke out when Maute group members went berserk after the troops raided the hideout of the slain Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon on May 23.

Hapilon and Omar Maute, one of the Maute group leaders, were killed in an intense fighting at dawn Monday.

Galvez said the 1st Infantry Battalion has successfully rescued 34 hostages held captives by the Maute group and the recovery of assorted firearms.

“Thank you for your dedicated service,” Galvez told the troops of the “Always First” Battalion, adding: “I am so proud of you.” Teofilo Garcia, Jr/