MANILA — This year’s observance of All Saints’ Day is more significant for the families of the 165 uniformed personnel who perished in the successful military campaign to free Marawi City from the clutches of Maute Group terrorists, the spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.
In a message issued Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the commemoration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day this year is “doubly significant for the widows, orphans and families of 158 AFP and seven PNP (Philippine National Police) warrior heroes who died in Marawi during the siege of the city by Daesh-inspired rebels.”
Daesh is another name for the Islamic State.
The conflict, which raged from May 23 to Oct. 23, is by far the longest armed conflict situation in post-World War II Philippine history.
“The Marawi siege left a once peaceful and economically vibrant city in ruins and utter economic decay. The local armed conflict raged for more than five months and paralyzed the whole city and turned the lives of thousands of residents of the city and nearby municipalities in limbo,” Padilla said.
He noted the many stories of gallantry and heroism that were witnessed in the conflict that “showed the true courage and dedication of our soldiers to protect the lives not only of the Filipino people and their loved ones, but even their comrades.”
Padilla cited the example of Capt. Rommel Sandoval, commander of the 11th Scout Ranger Company of the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, Special Operations Command.
“(He) fought with the promise he would not let any of his men die. While on a mission to retake a five-story building, one of his troops got wounded and was trapped in the middle of the crossfire. Sandoval was determined to rescue the soldier. When he saw an opportunity, without hesitation he went to get the wounded soldier and bring him to safety but in the process got hit by enemy fire,” he said.
“Until his last breath, Sandoval kept his promise to keep his men alive. Using his body, he covered the soldier from the overwhelming enemy fire, preventing the bullets from further injuring his troop,” he added.
Padilla said Sandoval left behind a wife who was anxiously waiting for a long-overdue vacation abroad with her husband.
“She will instead stand vigil at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani this Undas,” he said.
Another soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice is 2nd Lt. Harold Mark Juan of the Army’s Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operations Command.
“He already got wounded in action, but chose to return to the main battle area to fight the terrorists. As the Marawi siege neared its end, the fighting remained to be a difficult feat. Juan was killed by sniper fire, leaving his fiancé behind whom he promised to marry once he goes back from Marawi,” Padilla said. PNA-northboundasia.com