PFC Dhan Ryan Bayot and nine other soldiers from the 51st Infantry Batallion were in Marawi City when the siege erupted. They were assigned to guard a local leader whose residence was near their detachment.
Terrorists mounted a surprise attack at daybreak. Dhan and his team met gunfire from all directions. Soon after, six of Dhan’s comrades were dead, two seriously wounded. The army tried to send reinforcements but terrorists littered the only path to him.
Realizing his hopeless situation, he radioed his coordinates and told his commander, “Bombahin na lang ninyo ang location ko Sir! (Just bomb my location, Sir!)”. Dhan wanted to take his enemies down with him.
Dhan’s remains, along with the corpses of his six fallen comrades, were recovered four days later.
A little over a week after the Marawi Siege commenced, Lt. Frederick Savellano and 37th Marine Company retook a stronghold of Maute terrorists and recovered over P52 million in cash in one of the sniper nests, dealing a major blow to terrorist financing.
Frederick could have gone back to Manila and rested on his laurels, but he still went back to the war zone to help his comrades win the war.
He got shot in the face and died on the spot.
Dhan’s and Frederick’s stories are just two of the thousands of stories of heroism of our soldiers who face the painful reality of terrorism in Muslim Mindanao.
After the 2017 Marawi Siege where Dhan and Frederick lost their lives, there were the bombings in Lamitan and Isulan in 2018, and the bombings in Jolo Cathedral and Indanan in 2019.
And most recently, the August 24 bombings in Jolo that killed 14 and wounded 75.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in solidarity with the Armed Forces and local residents who are still reeling from the attack, flew to Sulu to condole with the victims.
Upon arrival at the blast site, the President kissed the ground, a gesture to honor the soldiers and the countless Tausug civilians who lost their lives.
The photo of the President kissing the ground instantly went viral.
As expected, the gesture was met with a barrage of criticisms from the political opposition, with one opposition-aligned Catholic school teacher even going as far as editing the photo to make it look like the President was about to munch on dog food.
Fellow Filipinos, I know many of you hate this President with a passion, but we should all know where the line should be drawn.
By vandalizing that iconic photo, that teacher and those who shared that stupid meme insulted not only the President and the office he represents, but also the victims of the terrorist attack and their ones who are still grieving up to this day.
By photoshopping a bowl of dog food right at the blast site, Duterte’s critics trivialized the innocent lives lost on August 24th, they trivialized what should have been a moment of solidarity for the Filipino People.
And for what, a couple of cheap laughs?
That teacher has since apologized for the pathetic stunt, and her Catholic school has distanced itself from the issue. While an apology from the teacher was indeed in order, I cannot help but grimace at the idea that a Filipina stooped that low just to help herself sleep better at night.
The stunt insulted not only the President, but also the soldiers who have given up their lives so that teacher won’t have to fight terrorists herself.
There has to be a limit to this political madness. I don’t know where exactly that line should be drawn, but I believe that anything involving the deaths of innocents should be off-limits.
To be fair, maybe the teacher thought there was some justice in what she did. Maybe she thought that it was her moral obligation to fight who she perceives to be the monster that is Rodrigo Duterte.
But borrowing the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster, for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Yes, Duterte might be a monster in her eyes. But wittingly or unwittingly, she made herself a monster to soldiers like Dhan and Frederick, their loved ones who miss them, and the nation that recognizes their ultimate sacrifice.
She may have already learned her lesson but unfortunately, she is may not be the only one of her kind.
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