Quantcast
Latest Stories

The fallen heroes of Zamboanga City

By

FALLEN HEROES: PO3 Jose Audrey Banares and First Lieutenant John Kristopher Rama. Photo from Facebook and Cebu Daily News

MANILA, Philippines—At least a hundred have been killed since government troops fought members of the Moro National Liberation Front who tried to build their own independent state in Zamboanga City last Sept. 9. Although a huge portion of the fatalities were from the MNLF, 11 of these were government soldiers. The Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed thousands of its troops, but the crisis continued to its third week on Monday.

Heroism has no distinct context. The Filipino heroes are too many but all of them have made a remarkable difference, have inspiring stories of selflessness, volunteerism, passion and change. In these modern times, it could be the overseas Filipino worker, the national basketball team that
brought the country to the World Cup, or a public school teacher with a fervent passion for teaching.

Soldiery, however, remains to be one of the most ardently celebrated forms of heroism. After all, gallantry is registered in their job description being one of the few professions where one’s life is at stake.

The Army lieutenant

“[His death] hurts so much because our daughter will grow up without a father,” a teary-eyed Erlinda Rama, widow of slain Army officer First Lieutenant John Kristopher Rama, said in a television interview.

The 30-year-old lieutenant, an assault platoon leader of the Army’s First Light Reaction Company of the Special Operations Command, was killed by sniper fire last Thursday during clearing operations in Barangay (village) Sta. Barbara. He was the first officer to die in the Zamboanga siege.

In acting public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc’s telling, Rama’s unit also participated in two successful rescue missions of hostages before he was killed.

“He helped free 108 civilians from their captors who had used them as human shields. He gave his life so others may live,” he said.

Rama’s death came five years after graduation. He had a promising career: He graduated in the top 10 of his class at the Philippine Military Academy.

He topped his Army special training courses — the Infantry Basic Officer’s Course, Counterterrorist Course, and Special Forces Operations Course. He was also assigned in Northern Mindanao on his early years as a Second Lieutenant.

The Norzagaray, Bulacan-native died on his wife’s birthday.

“The night before he died, he told me was going to take a rest because they will have an assault the next day. He waited for 12 midnight to greet me.

In the morning, he texted me ‘Good morning’ and ‘Happy birthday’,” a sobbing Erlinda said.

She said she couldn’t be any more proud of his husband who died in battle. They have a two-year-old daughter named Erin.
Other fallen heroes

Petty Officer 3 Jose Audrey Banares of Lapu-Lapu in Cebu City was the first to die in the clashes between government troops and followers of MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari on Sept. 9. His unit tried to prevent the entry of about a hundred MNLF men off Zamboanga City.

He was part of the elite Naval Special Operations Group, the US equivalent of the Navy Seals.

Fierce gunbattle between government forces and MNLF men continued for days in several coastal villages of the city. On Sept. 11, Private First Class Julmuin Abdulalahid, a Muslim soldier, was killed in Sta. Barbara.

More soldiers were killed when the military started its “calibrated” offensive against the MNLF troops. On Sept. 14, Private First Class Jeffrey Castillo of the 23rd Marine Company was killed in clashes in Kasanyangan village. A day later, Corporal Mark Herson Caranzo was also killed.
Corporal Michael Baltazar, a native of Batangas, was killed from gunshot wounds he sustained in clashes on Sept. 16. On the same day, Private First Class Albin Dayna of Zamboanga del Norte and Private Sergio Buagas of Libungan, Cotabato, were killed from an improvised explosive device explosion.

Two more deaths were recorded on Sep. 17. Corporal Allan Camerino and Private First Class Jay Olivar were killed while rescuing hostages. On Sept. 21, Staff Sergeant Joselino Servilla was killed during a house-to-house clearing operations.

“The risk is still there,” Cabunoc told INQUIRER.net when asked if additional fatalities were expected, but also said that, “hopefully [there will be] no more.”

There were also 133 soldiers wounded in action as of Sunday reports because of the fighting. From the police, three were killed and 13 were wounded. There were 99 men killed from the MNLF, while 12 other fatalities recorded were civilians.

Selfless service
Cabunoc assured that the military casualties will receive financial assistance from the government “in honor of their selfless service.”

On Sunday, President Benigno Aquino III said in Zamboanga City that the crisis could soon be over. He stayed there for 10 days before flying back to Manila.

The MNLF stormed Zamboanga City on Sept. 9, in an attempt to hoist their flag in the city hall to set up their independent “Bangsamoro republik,” where Misuari earlier declared himself as chief of the Bangsamoro Armed Forces. The group is reportedly opposing the newest peace pact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The military estimated that there were up to 200 MNLF fighters that took over the villages and held about 200 hostages. They also claimed that the hostages were used as human shields. As of Sunday afternoon, about 170 hostages were either rescued, released or captured. They said that there could be about 40 MNLF fighters left, with some 20 hostages with them.

The siege caused airports, seaports and businesses to shut down. Classes were also cancelled. An estimated P344 million a day was reportedly lost in trade and commerce in the last two weeks.

On the latter part of the second week of the crisis, the airport opened for the first time to commercial flights. Businesses and banks not directly affected by the fighting also opened.

Thousands of homes, however, were burned and destroyed to gunfires and fire incidents.

Hardest hit were the civilians, with at least 100,000 of them housed in more than 50 shelters. The population of Zamboanga City is close to a million.


Related Stories:

Military officer killed in Zamboanga fighting


Slain soldier saw baby only once

Cebuano soldier killed in clash with MNLF given military honors


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Armed conflict , Military , mnlf rebels , Nur Misuari , Regions , Zamboanga




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  3. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  4. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  7. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  8. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  9. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  10. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
Advertisement

News

  • 4 Etihad passengers not yet located
  • DAR to complete installation of Luisita land reform beneficiaries in May
  • Ex-COA chief and co-accused in Arroyo plunder case nabbed
  • Kris Aquino’s ex- close in security named new Air Force chief
  • The ‘link diagram’ that killed ex-Bataan police officer
  • Sports

  • NLEX holds off Jumbo Plastic for a playoff berth
  • Pacquiao can dodge tax issues
  • F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone rejects bribery charges
  • Big Chill freezes Cafe France to arrest skid
  • Pacquiao has to go through PBA Rookie draft
  • Lifestyle

  • Summer Mayhem: The ultimate beach experience
  • A haven for steak lovers
  • Gongs and southern dances star in a workshop at San Francisco Bayanihan Center
  • This woman ate what?
  • Photos explore dynamics of youths’ sexual identity
  • Entertainment

  • Smithsonian wants photos, videos for ‘Day in the Life of Asian Pacific Americans’
  • What Garcia Marquez left behind
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • Sony developing live-action Barbie comedy
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Business

  • Metro Pacific acquires stake in Victorias
  • How ‘one percent’ economic elite was uncovered
  • Facebook profits triple as mobile soars
  • Insular Honors Sales Performers at Testimonial Rites
  • Apple increases stock buyback, will split stock
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • DOLE sees more Filipinos hired by South Koreans
  • Filipinos second-shortest in Southeast Asia
  • Obama to visit Filipino soldiers in Fort Bonifacio
  • Fil-Am youth conferences unite under one theme
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement