By Martin Sadongdong
On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) rendered full military honors to one of its own who was killed in exchange for the freedom of two Indonesian fishermen from their Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) abductors in Sulu.
Sargeant Romnick Estacio, a gunner of the 65th Marine Company of the PMC, was killed in a gunfight with Abu Sayyaf gunmen on Sunday in Panamao, Sulu which resulted in the rescue of Maharudin Lunani, 48, and Samion Bin Maniue, 27.
The operation also resulted in the death of an ASG terrorist named Hairula Itum.
The two fishermen were abducted by the ASG on September 22, along with another companion, Muhammad Farhan, in the waters off Sabah, Malaysia. Rescue operations were still underway to save the third fishermen.
Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command, and Major General Nathaniel Casem, PMC commandant, led the ceremony at the Marines’ headquarters in Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Taguig City.
As a true-blooded Marine, Estacio had been into several combat operations particularly in Mindanao, said Captain Jarald Rea, director of the Marine Corps Public Affairs Office.
In fact, Estacio also fought for the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of the Maute terrorists in 2017. He was awarded with a Bronze Cross medal for his contributions to liberate Marawi City.
Meanwhile, Estacio’s brother, Corporal Jethro Fil Estacio, an Army Scout Ranger, was also killed in action while fighting the Maute terrorists, according to multiple reports.
The PMC condoled with the bereaved family of Estacio as it promised all the necessary assistance accorded to a fallen soldier. He is survived by his wife and classmate, Corporal Marijoe Ornedo Estacio, a son and a daughter.
“The Filipino people salute our Marine hero, Sgt. Estacio and his family. Their grief cannot be alleviated by no words. However, the appreciation of the grateful nation is more than enough for your Marines,” the PMC said in a statement.
“He will always be remembered as an extraordinary Marine, a hero of our modern time,” it added.
Meanwhile, the two rescued Indonesian fishermen were also flown to Manila to undergo debriefing before they are allowed to go back to their country.