Friday, October 13, 2017

Fight to Liberate Marawi Reaches Milestones

Fight to Liberate Marawi Reaches Milestones

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año visits the Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines, and Policemen fighting the terrorists at the Main Battle Area Friday, 06 October 2017. (Photo by COL AREVALO)

On the 137th day of the crisis in Marawi, at around 11:40 AM, the helicopters with the AFP Chief, his Joint and Personal Staff, and the newly-installed Commanding General of the Philippine Army MGen Rolando Joselito Bautista and his staff, and BGen Roseller Murillo on board landed at the Headquarters 103rd Brigade in Camp Ranao.

Deeper into the battle area 

The party of the AFP Chief immediately boarded the awaiting convoy, moved in, and alighted at the foot of Masio Bridge. They went on-foot to strategic structures recovered from and erstwhile strongholds of the terrorist Maute-ISIS Group in the 137 days. Around 753 terrorists were neutralized and 805 firearms were seized from them at the expense of 155 AFP and PNP Personnel Killed-in-Action.

The AFP Chief and his team clad in force protection vests and helmets set foot for the first time in and deeper into the Main Battle Area-- amidst explosions and sporadic gun fires that break the eerie silence in the former sites of fierce armed engagements. He was led first to the JTI College Building.

He had the chance to visit, talk to, and receive quick field brief from BGen Glenn Paje, the Commander of Task Group “Musang” whose men and those from TG “Tiger” headed by BGen Melquiades Ordiales, and TG “Vector” under Army Colonel Corleto Vinluan continue to engage the remaining terrorists who use their civilian hostages as shield, IEDs, and remaining firearms and ammunition in their waning grip of Marawi.

General Año saw for himself the tunnels and underground havens in the Pink Building, and C and D Commercial Center, among several other locations the terrorists once used as command and control centers, safe haven, IED factories, and detention facilities for their civilian hostages.

The General’s staff also saw for the first time the inside of Bato Mosque and one of the chambers where Fr. “Chito” Soganub was once held captive.

It was a hair-raising experience for Gen Año and his staff to step into Saint Mary’s Cathedral—one of the religious edifices whose ruins stand as mute witness to violent extremism and radicalism. Mass was offered here again for the first time in 24 September attended by government security forces.

Ode to the Heroes

General Año was given the Operations Update Brief by Major General Danilo Pamonag at the Headquarters of Joint Task Force “Trident” (JTFT) that the latter also commands. Task Group commanders, maneuver battalion commanders, and Philippine National Police contingent commander were in all attendance during the briefing.

The AFP Chief expressed elation over the successful retaking of key enemy strongholds, seizure of their equipment, and the safe rescue of hostages –the recent rescue was of 17 civilians of which eight were females. He also expressed optimism that the liberation of Marawi may soon be had in accord with the plan of the JTFT to finish the crisis by mid-October.

During his talk after the briefing, Gen Año once more reiterated thus, “I am immensely proud of every Soldier, Airmen, Sailor, Marine, Policeman, and Coast Guard personnel fighting the terrorists in Marawi.

“I am as gratified of those who are outside of the besieged City whose operations immensely contributed to minimize if not totally negate the possibility of the terrorists spilling over from or reinforcing the extremists in Marawi.

“I am here thinking that my presence will continue to inspire you, but it is I whom you inspire every time I see you and talk to you and see for myself how far you’ve gone in the operations since my last visit.

“The date of my compulsory retirement draws near, but I remain focused. Focused on how the General Headquarters and the entire AFP can support you here in your daily quest to finish this fight. I continue to treat my every day as if it was my first day at work. It will only be my last day as your Chief-of-Staff on the 26th of October when I could have relinquished my post to a worthy successor.

“But I will continue to remain the proudest! That before my curtain call, I have commanded you, Heroes of the Nation, in this singular, unprecedented battle in the annals of Philippine history,” said the General whose brief speech was greeted with thunderous applause.

Change of Command Ceremonies

It was already 2:30 PM of the cloudy afternoon when the AFP Chief presided over two Change-of-Command Ceremonies-- in a shaded space that was converted as the “ceremonial area” at the makeshift headquarters. Adorned by the national flag, the unit standard, “lecterns” made from stacked ammunition boxes and available officers and men who stood witnesses, the solemn rites of passage proceeded.

Brigadier General Roseller G Murillo, a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986 and former Senior Military Assistant to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, took over the post of Major General Rolando Joselito Bautista as Commander, 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division (1ID) of the Philippine Army that has Marawi, Lanao del Sur in its Area of Responsibility (AoR).

Brigadier General Murillo is the former commander of the 103rd Brigade based in Marawi City. He was at the helm of the unit in a number of successful campaigns against the local terrorist group in Lanao del Sur in 2016 and finished his tenure before the Marawi Crisis.
Major General Bautista, a member of Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985 is the newly-posted Commanding General of the Philippine Army having been installed as such by the Commander-in-Chief President Rodrigo Duterte vice Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda who compulsorily retired form the service in 05 October 2017 at 56 years old.

Meanwhile, the second COC ceremony was for Joint Task Force Marawi (JTFM). MGen Danilo Pamonag, the incumbent Commander of Joint Task Force “Trident” took over the post from MGen Bautista after the latter relinquished his Command of 1ID to BGen Murillo.
“MGen Pamonag leads the elite AFP and PNP Units in the MBA supporting MGen Bautista who is the overall commander of all operating AFP, PNP, and PCG units on the onset of the crisis in Marawi, says General Ano during his remarks.

“That is one singular credential that makes the former the perfect replacement for the latter. He (MGen Pamonag) has a clear and good grasp of every facet of the ongoing operations. Therefore there will be no continuity or learning curve issues. Besides, I personally know him and I am confident of his sterling leadership as manifested by the continuing operational gains the AFP is reaping.

“I once again express my elation and satisfaction for all your accomplishments and sacrifices to end this crisis. You do not only make your AFP proud, you did the country proud!

“General Douglas MacArthur couldn’t have said it better, ‘Give me Ten Thousand Filipinos (soldiers) and I shall conquer the world!’. Those words continue to ring true to this very day long past the Second World War. I shall never run out of praises to you, I can only say, I am very proud to have been your AFP Chief of Staff in this unfolding history of our nation. Because other armed forces of the world today look at you with high degree of respect, admiration, inspiration, and hope of emulation.”

Lieutenant General Carlito G Galvez, the Commander Western Mindanao Command and other high-ranking officers was host to the party of the AFP Chief.

MGen Filemon Santos, Jr., the Deputy Chief of Staff for intelligence, J2 and incoming Commander of 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay; MGen Isidro Purisima, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, J3; MGen Melquiades Felciano, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, J7; and Marine Colonel Edgard Arevalo, the Chief of AFP Public Affairs Office and incoming Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, AJ7 were among the Joint and Personal Staff from the General Headquarters who accompanied General Año.   

Colonel Ramil Bitong, the Army Staff for Personnel, G1 and Colonel Glenn Cruz, the Army Staff for Loistics, G4 accompanied the 59th Commanding General of the Philippine Army MGen Bautista.

The visit was capped by a lunch boodle fight at 3:30PM. After which, at 4:00, the AFP Chief of Staff and his team were airlifted from the area.


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