By Martin Sadongdong
The Philippine Army (PA)’s 103rd Infantry “Haribon” Brigade (103rd IBde) commemorated on Saturday the third year anniversary of the Marawi City siege with a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the 168 soldiers and policemen who paid the ultimate price to liberate the Islamic City from the clutches of Dawlah Islamiyah-Maute terrorist group.
Colonel Jose Maria Cuerpo II, commander of the Haribon Brigade, led the ceremony held at the Heroes Wall in Kampo Ranao where the names of state security troopers who died in the five-month long battle were imprinted. Physical distancing and other safety protocols were observed, he said.
In his speech, Cuerpo said that not even the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) could stop them from honoring their fallen comrades.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we have not and we will never be forgetting the heroism displayed by our soldiers during the 2017 Marawi siege,” he said.
Cuerpo emphasized that unity among Filipinos was the reason why the military defeated the Islamic militants and retook Marawi City three years ago, and it is the same virtue needed now especially since the country is facing another unconventional battle – one that is against a virus, an unseen enemy.
“Unity is critical in these trying times as manifested during the Marawi siege where the people and the security sector joined hands in fighting a common enemy. Peace and development can be attained, Nothing is impossible if there is cooperation, understanding, and discipline among us,” he said.
The military commander called on all Maranaos to continue working with the government by resisting the terror forces and reporting them to authorities.
“I call on the patriotic spirit of all Meranaos to do their part and help maintain the peace we are enjoying today,” Cuerpo said.
The Marawi City siege began on May 23, 2017 when the troops attempted to capture Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Isnilon Hapilon just as an attempt to establish a Dawlah Islamiyah “wilayat” or administrative state in Mindanao was being planned. The Maute Group, led by brothers Omar and Abdullah, laid siege on the city with the help of ASG rebels.
More than 1,200 people died in the battle until state troopers finally liberated Marawi City from the terrorists on October 17, 2017 following the death of Isnilon and the Maute brothers. Six days later, the war had been concluded.