LIBINGAN NG MGA BAYANI (17 October 2022) – They call themselves the “Marawi Liberators.” It was through their heroism that the people of Marawi were freed from the terror groups which held the city hostage for five grueling months.

On Monday morning, as the sun shone brightly on these solemn grounds reserved for the nation’s heroes, the Liberators stood shoulder to shoulder as they offered wreaths to honor the 168 soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice five years ago.

For Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., who was then the commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) which fought tooth and nail against the violent extremists, the memories of the siege remain fresh to this day.

“As we lay these wreaths on the tombs of our fallen soldiers, let us honor them for their courage, selflessness and heroism. They gave up their lives…so that others may live,” Galvez said in his remarks during the commemoration of the 5th year anniversary of Marawi’s liberation.

The former Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff recalled visiting the wake of the fallen soldiers at night and having to console their widows and other family members. He said those were among the most difficult moments in his military career.

“It’s hard to explain why their husbands, brothers or sons did not survive the war. It was heartbreaking to see that look on their faces that they will never get to embrace or hold the hands of their loved ones again,” Galvez said.

According to the peace adviser, the best way to honor the soldiers who perished during the war was “to make sure that the horrific event will not happen again,” a task which, he said, peace stakeholders are now focused on by addressing the drivers of armed conflict.

“Slowly but surely, we are seeing Marawi rise from the ashes. The pace of rehabilitation efforts continues to gain momentum with the construction of new roads, bridges, schools and other vital infrastructure,” Galvez said.

But beyond the physical reconstruction of this city, he said he was pleased to see that the torn social fabric caused by the siege is now being repaired, as the process of healing for the victims of the armed conflict is now underway.

“Under our agency’s Social Healing and Peace-Building Office (SHAPEO), we are conducting peace conversations with those affected by the war, particularly with the most vulnerable sectors,” Galvez said.

“Through our dialogues with women, youth and children, we are providing them avenues to share their views and experiences, and by doing so, allow them to recover from the trauma and rebuild their lives,” he added.

Meanwhile, Galvez thanked the families of the fallen soldiers, saying “I am forever grateful to you. The Filipino people will never forget the ultimate sacrifice of our beloved soldiers. We will continue to remember, honor, and commemorate the heroism of [our] fallen.”

“We owe to them the freedom we are enjoying. As long as I am alive, I will continue to pay my tribute to the fallen by working towards achieving all-encompassing and all-inclusive peace in our land,” he said.

Galvez viewed the names of all the fallen soldiers etched on the memorial. He touched the name of Capt. Rommel Sandoval of the 11th Scout Ranger Company, the highest ranking officer who was killed during the siege and was posthumously awarded the Medal of Valor.

Other officials who attended the ceremony were former Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año, who was the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff when the siege happened; former Social Welfare Secretary Joselito Rolando D. Bautista, who was then the commander of Joint Task Force Marawi.

Also gracing the event were LtGen Corleto S. Vinluan, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Vector; LtGen. Ramiro Manuel A. Rey, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Ranao; MGen Isidro l. Purisima, PA (ret); MGen. Rene Glen O. Paje, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Musang; MGen. Generoso M. Ponio, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Horibon; BGen. Melquidaes V. Ordiales PN (ret) – Joint Task Group Tiger; BGen. Felicisimo C. Budiongan, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Bakal; BGen. Thomas R. Sedano, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Tabang; BGen. Cirilo Thomas P. Donato Jr., PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Mitigator; BGen. Monico S. Batle, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Mitigator Lawa; Col. Filemon P. Radam, PA (ret) – Joint Task Group Ayuda; Col. Noly P. Mapili, PA (ret); PBGen. Rolando B. Anduyan (ret) – Joint Task Group PNP; and other Marawi Liberators.###