A shot to the chest for the notorious Abu Sayyaf leader, Isnilon Hapilon, and a shot to the head for Omar Maute, the Maute Group leader; they are the lawless terrorists who threatened to take the freedom of the Filipinos living in the Islamic City of Marawi. A hundred and fifty-three (153) days passed since heavily armed men carrying a black flag marched on the previously peaceful street of Marawi City. Thousands of Meranao fled their homes in fear of the terrorists who declared themselves as the Maute Group, a radicalized gang of bandits who used their twisted radical ideologies to wreak havoc.

It was a humanitarian crisis but the military remained steadfast. After 153 days of battle, the military successfully liberated the Islamic City of Marawi and has been working with the government and other agencies to rehabilitate the devastated city. The Marawi Siege put the spotlight on the unwavering bravery and sacrifice of the Filipino soldiers as the modern defenders of democracy and human rights.

Upholding Human Rights, Including the Enemy’s In Iligan City, a female soldier, Private First Class Eunice Jane Curayag, offered to donate her blood to extend the life of a New People’s Army insurgent, Lando, who was left by his comrades after an encounter with the government forces. In Bukidnon, a bleeding 17-year old NPA supply officer, Nina, was given first aid kid by the state troops when her uncaring companions rushed to save their own lives during an encounter. In Metro Manila, the the Philippine Army assisted the family of an NPA leader, Noel Levanta, in giving the dead cadre a proper burial. The military helped in approaching Antipolo Mayor Dennis Hernandez to request financial assistance for the cremation of his body.

In Oriental Mindoro, the military searched for the legitimate next of kin of an NPA, Elmer Murillo, and even used its helicopter to bring back his cadaver to his family in Lopez, Quezon. In Surigao del Sur back in 1999, Jelyn Dayong was a 13-year old NPA Child Warrior who was left wounded with a dead comrade beside her. She was immediately evacuated to the hospital to save her life. The kid was treated with appropriate care, kindness and attention. She grew up and became part of the Philippine Army and even married a soldier. These are few of the many instances where the military upheld the right to life and due process of the people no matter their political affiliation, verified transgressions, and forceful aggressions.

The Perennial Heroes

While the military troops have an upper hand in combat operations versus groups that are threats to national security, they also champion the advocacy of compassion, doing extra humanitarian services, even to those considered enemies of the state. The military has an active and visible participation in all the crises that the country faces: volcanic eruption, onslaught of super typhoons, other disasters and calamities, attack of war terror, and the pandemic crisis. The soldiers are the people’s first and last line of defense. They propagate and advocate for human rights. They truly adhere to the principles of International Humanitarian Law, especially the Rules of Engagement.

High security satisfaction

The Social Weather Station Survey conducted in December 2019 revealed a 79% public satisfaction rating on the performance of duty by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The military has been enjoying a high public satisfaction ratings since 2015 and the Filipinos are confident that the AFP capable of defeating the emerging threats to the country’s security.

This confidence can be attributed to the military’s commitment to excellence and professionalism brought about by the still ongoing Army Transformation Roadmap.

The military’s dedication to improvement successfully rebuilt the image of the Filipino soldier as the guardian of the people’s rights and the country’s sovereignty.

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