By Bonita Ermac and Francis Wakefield
MARAWI CITY — “The city will be healed and the people will dance again and laugh again.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said this like a vow at the culmination program for the Marawi Week of Peace last Thursday, commending Task Force Bangon Marawi for leading the process of rehabilitating the city.
He commended Task Force Bangon Marawi for doing a fine job in leading the rehabilitation of Marawi. Temporary shelters are already being constructed for the evacuees, while government is in the process of constructing their permanent houses, Lorenzana said.
“Foreign allies and international organizations have also been giving financial assistance for the rehabilitation and relief of this war-torn city,” he added.
Heroes of Marawi
A somber ceremony also highlighted the heroism of soldiers who gave their life to the cause of liberating Marawi from grip of terror.
“The heart of a soldier is not measured in size but by the depth of commitment to make a difference in the lives of others… A tribute to the men and women who committed their hearts for the liberation of Marawi.”
This was the epitaph on the memorial built inside the camp of the 103rd Infantry Brigade in Kampo Ranao here in memory of the 165 soldiers and policemen who laid down their lives to liberate Marawi.
The name of each fallen officer was read in ceremonial rites during the Battle of Marawi Commemoration Program Thursday as a wreath was laid in their honor.
“I wish it could not have happened, but it happened because of the actions of some terrorists – wala tayong magagawa (there was nothing else we could do) but to deal with them in a way that we stopped them and we wipe them out,” he noted.
“The concrete jungle of Marawi brought out many stories of gallantry, true courage, dedication of our troops; and that of resilience of Marawi residents – these stories shed light during the city’s darkest times,” Lorenzana said.
“The Marawi siege also strengthened us a nation – as diverse as we are, we were unified by our desire to stop the spread of extremists’ gospel of hate and anger.”
“One year may have passed but the pain and the ruins are still there. Rest assured that the government has been doing all it can to diminish the pain and put things back to normal,” he added.
Vigilance, lessons learned
But to ensure that the Marawi incident won’t happen again, the defense official said the people should be vigilant to prevent the enemy from staging future attacks.
“We must still remain vigilant because terrorists are just lurking in the shadows. Though we have accomplished much in our counter-terrorism efforts for the past year, these endeavors still require continued perseverance, vigilance, and sacrifice of everyone for the years to come,” he added.
“This is not to celebrate the fact that Marawi siege happened. But the heroism of soldiers in the Marawi frontlines as well as other individuals and groups who sacrificed their lives during the five-month long battle,” Lorenzana said.
The siege reduced the Islamic City of Marawi into rubble only seen in Middle East countries.
But there are lessons learned.
“First, the city officials were not vigilant enough to protect their territory,” and agrees with President Duterte that Marawi residents were partly to blame for allowing the IS to gain a foothold in Marawi.
Second, is lack of intelligence and the failure to appreciate the magnitude of things that could happen, Lorenzana said. This is because “we cannot accept the fact that they can do it here what they are doing in the Middle East.”
Third, Lorenzana pointed out is that our troops are not trained for urban warfare and lacks the equipment.
He said this is the reason why government is trying to procure equipments “so that if something like this happens, we are prepared.” Urban warfare training is expected to begin next week.
“Kung sino man ang nagkamali doon (If whoever was at fault then) it’s already water under the bridge. Hindi na tayo magtuturuan (We will not point fingers). All we can do now is to improve our processes, procedures and intelligence,” Lorenzana said.
Order of Lapu-Lapu
Meanwhile, President Duterte vowed to provide the needs of wounded soldiers recuperating from their injury at the Metro Davao Medical Research Center (MDMRC) in Davao City Thursday evening.
During the hospital visit, Duterte personally awarded the medals of the Order of Lapu-Lapu with the Rank of Kampilan to the soldiers in honor of their courage, bravery, and sacrifice in the service of the country.
The Order of Lapu-Lapu, Rank of Kampilan is conferred by the President to recognize exemplary service by workers of the government and private individuals who are wounded, injured, or suffered great loss of property for their participation in the advocacy of the President.
“The President had a brief chat with the wounded soldiers where he vowed to provide for their needs. He likewise assured them of their full recovery under government’s care,” the Palace statement read.
Duterte also gave financial assistance to the wounded soldiers.
The wounded soldiers were identified as Pfc. Nicasio Badana III, Pvt. Michael Liban, Pfc. Jackson Macaraig, Cpl. Kith Domingo, Pvt. Roy Inovejas, Pfc. Roger Belas, Pfc. Daniel Fabular.
Badana, Liban, and Macaraig sustained injuries during separate encounters in Surigao del Sur last week.
Inovejas, Belas, and Fabular were injured by improvised explosive device in Mabini, Compostella Valley last May 21. (With a report from Argyll Cyrus Geducos)