To all the Valiant Men and Women
of the Armed Forces and Integrated Police
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for risking and sacrificing life and limb in defense of our freedom in the recently concluded Zamboanga rebellion.
Hat tip to our gallant men and women in uniform.
At 7 a.m, Mr. Aquino will lead a flag-raising ceremony at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo to be followed by a ceremony during which the individual soldiers’ and policemen’s actions would be officially and formally recognised.
a soldier, a father,
a brother, a son,
a husband, a friend
all gave up their lives
In your greatest hour of need.Four junior officers from the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police, and 21 enlisted personnel from the Army, the PNP, and the Philippine Navy and Marines were killed while trying to dislodge Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas who occupied a large section of Zamboanga City and taken nearly 200 residents hostage last September. The fighting went on for three weeks starting on Sept. 9.
The Armed Forces has yet to release the list of awardees but the Inquirer learned that the highest award to be conferred by the President would be the Distinguished Conduct Star, the Distinguished Service Star, and the Gold Cross medals.
The Distinguished Conduct Star and the Gold Cross are the second- and third-highest combat awards the AFP gives to its soldiers. The highest military combat award is the Medal of Valor.
“The military gives due recognition to the sacrifices and heroism of our soldiers especially in combat. In Zamboanga, the AFP was able to do its mission and Monday’s awarding ceremony is representative of the bravery of the thousands of soldiers who fought there… to save lives,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs information chief, told the Inquirer in a telephone interview on Saturday.
It was the rescue of the hostages—a clear directive from President Aquino as the commander-in-chief—that prolonged the security operations and made the campaign difficult.
The military estimated that some 300 MNLF fighters attacked the six coastal areas of Zamboanga, and there were 20 women who provided support, Gazmin said.
The defense chief the MNLF fighters were superstitious and believed 300 “was a good number.”
(The media had been told earlier that some 300 MNLF fighters were involved but the number was eventually scaled down to less than 200.)
Gazmin conceded that there was a need to improve the government’s intelligence capability to avoid a similar occurrence.
To date, the military cannot say if Malik is dead or alive, or if the authororities were any closer to findin g and arresting Misuari, against whom the government has filed charges of rebellion and crimes against humanity.
“We have to get Misuari. Hopefully he confesses. He is the key to all of this,” Gazmin said.
A few hours after the initial attack of the MNLF, Gazmin, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, and Bautista were already at the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) in Zamboanga City.
Both Gazmin and Bautista said the MNLF should not be considered enemies.
“We are not treating the MNLF per se as enemies, but these are misguided MNLF elements. You must remember there are other MNLF factions. Muslimin Sema has a faction. We still have friends in the MNLF. We should distinguish those who are law-abiding and following the peace agreement,” Gazmin said.
Bautista noted that MNLF guerrillas integrated into the Armed Forces remained “loyal to the republic.” He pointed out that two of them were killed defending Zamboanga from their former comrades.
President Aquino spent nearly two weeks holed up at Wesmincom, along with his top security officials, and oversaw the 20-day campaign.
Critics said Mr. Aquino’s presence in Zamboanga could have cramped the style of the seasoned military officers on the ground.
But Bautista defended the President, saying that Mr. Aquino did not meddle in the tactical operations.
“What he did was to give the strategic guidance at the policy level. He made it explicit that the consideration was the safety of the hostages, so we planned on the basis of that guidance,” Bautista said.
If the rescue of the hostages was primary to the President, the secondary goal was to neutralize the MNLF rebels led by Malik, the military chief said.