Saturday, September 21, 2013

Honoring the fallen warriors: The heroes of Zamboanga siege

We started counting the number of casualties in Zamboanga City since Day 1 of the hostilities (September 9, 2013). 

The battle for public opinion had also erupted in the social media as Misuari's supporters bombarded Twitter and Facebook with images and messages that spread false information.

There were stupid claims by Misuari's supporters  and spokespeople about the death of 500 soldiers in the hands of Malik and his gang. Ano sila hilo? That is almost half of the troop strength in Zamboanga!

It was an obvious propaganda but the widely-spread false information had caused panic among the soldiers' relatives. 

Ito ang halimbawa ng propaganda material ng mga fans ni Prof Nur Misuari. Napakahalatang pinatungan lang ng caption ang TV grab ng news report tungkol sa fallen warriors ng Philippine Marine Corps noong 2011. Iyong mga kulang lang din sa pinag-aralan ang kayang maloko sa ganitong simple-simpleng propaganda material.

The AFP doesn't and could not hide its battle-casualties. Pwede ba naman yon? 

We honor our soldiers and their family members. Sa panahon ng social media, di maitatago ang casualties. We follow the principle of accountability and transparency. Gets nyo mga fans ni Prof Misuari?

In this regard, allow me to honor the deeds of our fallen warriors. 

First heroes

PO3 Jose Audrey Banares of Lapu-lapu City, a Philippine Navy Seal, was the first fatality of the armed conflict when he perished in the first recorded clash with Misuari's heavily armed followers in Rio Hondo village.

Sent to check the presence of heavily armed men in that village, the small team of the Navy's elite unit proceeded to the area at midnight on September 9.

They found themselves in the middle of a heavy firefight with at least 150 armed men at around 1:00am. They were overwhelmed but never subdued. They fought up to the last drop of their blood.

Though wounded on his face and upper extremities, Lt Junior Grade Llewilyn Abian, the leader of the patrol, was able to effectively control his men while executing a break contact to save the whole team from being routed by the enemy forces. 

They fought bravely despite their wounds and came back alive: PO2 Renato Ricafrente, PO3 Melvin Cledera,  PO3 John Martinez and PO3 Arturo Balaus and also Lt SG Abian. 

These brave soldiers were the first casualties of the conflict that was ignited by the group of Nur Misuari, who according to his Spokespersons, are supposed to attend a peace rally and hoist the MNLF flag in the seat of Zamboanga City government. 

They are now recuperating from their wounds.

Sporadic fighting

To confront the loyal forces of Nur Misuari, the local military commander promptly deployed troops around Zamboanga City. The intent was to protect the civilians and thwart his armed followers from taking the heart of the city.

There were sporadic fighting in at least 3 villages including Sta Catalina, Talon-talon, Sta Barbara and Kasanyangan. Among the first responders include the 32nd Infantry Battalion and the 23rd Marine Company.

The first Muslim to die in the battles that ensued was Pfc Julmuin Abdulalahid of Indanan, Sulu. Kakaiba ba? Yes, isang Tausug na nakipaglaban sa kapwa Tausug dahil sya ay isang Kawal Pinoy!

Showing his loyalty to the Philippine flag, he courageously fought against Misuari's forces who advanced towards Sta Barbara village at around 8:30pm on September 11. 

Three days later (September 14), Pfc Jeffrey Castillo of the 23rd Marine Company, died fighting against Misuari's followers who tried to control Kasanyangan village. Naitaboy ang mga tauhan ni Misuari dala ang kanilang mga patay na kasamahan dahil sa katapangan nina Castillo. Oooorah!

SOCOM Heroes

The arrival of the elite forces from the Army's Special Operations Command was welcomed with jubilation by the people of Zamboanga. 

Highly-trained both in counter-guerilla warfare and fighting in built-up areas (FIBUA), the warriors of SOCOM were deployed to confront the largest group of Misuari's forces in Sta Catalina and Sta Barbara villages. 

Unflinching of the delicate missions, they courageously pressed the fight despite the use of human shields by Misuari's armed men. 

Using selective fires to avoid hitting non-combatants, they courageously advanced despite the fact that bullets rained on them.

On September 15, Cpl Mark Herson Caranzo of Burgos, Isabela died while fighting against heavily armed men who were hiding behind the hostages. Mandirigma ba talaga tawag sa nagtatago sa likuran ng mga babae at matatandang bihag?

Cpl Michael Baltazar, a Batangueno, died of gunshot wounds while fighting in a built-up area in Sta Catalina at around 4:00pm on September 16. 

After evacuating Baltazar to the casualty collection point, the troops continued its advance to engage Misuari's followers, downing several of them. 

The effective use of human shields was the major obstacle that the SOCOM troopers had to hurdle. They could not use automatic fires and heavy-caliber weapons. The safety of the hostages was always on their mind. Our soldiers have the International Humanitarian Law in mind. I am proud of them. Ganyan ang astig!

In the continuous firefight that day (September 16), Pfc Albin Dayna of Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte and Pvt Sergio Buagas of Libungan Cotabato died after an improvised bomb exploded near their position. 

The clashes occurred on a daily basis as the troops of SOCOM close-in and continue its advance on known strongholds used by Misuari's followers. Napapahirapan sila dahil sa nagtatago ang mga nagpapakilalang mujahideens ni Malik sa likuran ng kaawa-awang hostages. 

Panoorin, ang news report tungkol sa mga civilian hostages sa link na ito:

Committed to end the fight, the soldiers continued its mission: slowly but surely. One village at a time. One building after the other. One room at a time. Mahirap ata ang Close Quarters Combat. Try mo sa video games gaya ng Counter Strike di ba duguan ka rin! 

At around 6:30pm on September 17, two SOCOM troopers, Cpl Allan Camerino and Pfc Jay Olivar,  offered their lives to perform their mission of freeing the hostages. Thirty four (34) hostages were freed and reunited with their loved ones. 

Early morning the next day, they were able to free another 64 hostages after a fierce clash with their captors in one of the buildings where they were being kept. Isa sa tagapagsalita ni Misuari ay nagsabing 'ni-release' nila ang mga hostages. Tama sana yon kung ang nangyari ay sa Manila lang ang mga sundalo at pinakawalan na lang nila ang hostages at magsipag-balikan na lang sila sa Sulu. Ganon ang 'released' di ba, wala nang bakbakan at pagdanak ng dugo?

Due to the continuous military pressure, the followers of Misuari were gradually demoralized. Twenty three of them surrendered to the police. Di naman totally nakakahiya ang sumuko. Parehas tayong Pilipino. Ang mga Kano nga dito sa Pinas eh sumurender sa mga Hapon noong World War 2!

Later in the afternoon, another six yielded to the Army after being cornered after trying to escape using the underground waterways. They revealed that they were low in ammunition and food supplies. They were treated humanely in accordance to the laws of armed conflict. Di namin sila ginagaya na hindi kumikilala ng laws of war.

The presence of courageous troops who stormed their hiding places brought them fear. They opted to surrender than die. 

On September 19, the troops continued its advance to clear the remaining strongholds used by Malik and his men. The soldiers were trying to find the exact location of the estimated 20 hostages that remained in their hands. 

Leading from the front, an officer paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to save the hostages during the occasion of his wife's birthday. 

1st Lt John Kristopher Rama, 30, of Norzagaray, Bulacan was a top-caliber officer who was endeared for his kindness and simplicity. He left behind a 2-year old daughter.

Rama became the 10th fatality in the armed conflict that also claimed at least 96 lives of Misuari's followers and 8 civilians. 

AFP benefits

All of the soldiers who died or wounded in battles receive financial support from the government in honor of their selfless services. 

The dependents of those who were killed in action (KIA) will receive several financial assistance (SFA) from the Presidential Management Staff amounting to P250,000.00. Those who are wounded in action receive the amount of either P50,000.00 (minor injuries) and P100,000.00 (major injuries).

The Army is also providing SFA based on the soldier's monthly salary and length of service, aside from the funeral service support amounting to P50,000.000.

Financial institutions like PAFCIPIC and MBAI are also providing assistance to their members.

The children of the fallen soldiers also receive educational grants based on Republic Act 6963 that provides for a free tuition fee and allowance for them under the AFP Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO). 

Non-government organizations like the Hero Foundation is also providing allowance amounting to P5,000.00 for elementary; P8,000.00 for high school and P16,000.00.

To see my press statements about these benefits, please click the link below:

Note: There are at least 115 wounded soldiers as of September 20, 2013. We honor all of them. We will pray for their fast recovery.


  1. Very well said! A snappy salute to the fallen warriors

  2. good job soldiers!

  3. Wow.... hats off to our soldiers..

    I never realized their self less work until this Zamboanga siege erupted. Those soldiers who died defending our civilians deserves to be honored and rewarded far more money and grants could provide. They will be rewarded in heaven, i'm sure with that. I've read some of the pages in FB created and dedicated by and for soldiers and some of their posts made me cried specially when honoring the fallen heroes. I cannot imagine the grief of their loved ones but i know their lives and the battles they've fought will not be wasted. Their unselfish deeds will forever ingraved in the hearts of their family and they died living a great a legacy.

  4. hello po.. pa post naman po yung names nang sugatang sundalo sa zamboanga. nag-aalala kasi kami sa kuya ko na naka assign dyan. thanks po.

  5. My Heartfelt and Greatest SALUTE!

    To fallen warriors and to our beloved Filipino Soldiers for your self less dedication and willingness to serve the nation and to protect everyone's life,I honored you and your bravery has always a better place in our hearts FOREVER;specially here in Zamboanga,behind the crisis now, THE WAR..,here you are our HEROES still protecting us from the hands of those no hearts and coward mnlf rebel troops...MABUHAY KAYO!

  6. Thank you for enlightening us about the our soldiers' sacrifices and selfless work to protect us and defend the motherland. This has been an eye opener for me.

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  8. CPL Mark Himson G Caranzo 858380 Inf PA not HERSON ang name niya.... kausap ko pa siya bago siya mamatay. ngayon ko lng nabalitaan ng mabasa ko ang blog na ito. gusto ko sana makahingi ng contact number sa family niya. nasa labas na kasi ako ngayon pero lahat ng mga kabatch ko ay walang kontak o hindo ko matawagan para mabigyan ako ng info... sa sino man po ang makakabasa nito nagbabaka sakali ako na my mag reply at mabigyan ako ng pagkakataong makausap ang pamilya niya..salamat po...
    para po maliwanagan kayo kabatch ko po siya sa CSC CL128-05 classmate ko rin siya sa SFOC CL-117-07 at kasama ko siya ng kumpanya sa 4SFC at naassign kami sa Sulu, Davao Del Norte, Compostela Valley at ang last naming na pinagsamahan na assignment ay sa Bohol hanggang sa maassign siya sa LRB.... Bilib ako sayo PAREM!!!!