MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday visited the wake of the three soldiers killed in recent clashes with Moro National Liberation Front gunmen in Zamboanga City.
Aquino arrived at Camp Aguinaldo to pay his respects to First Lieutenant Francis Damian, the third junior officer who lost his life battling MNLF rebels last Tuesday. Aquino stayed at the wake for about an hour.
Damian’s remains arrived at Camp Aguinaldo on Wednesday. He will be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani next week.
“It’s painful. Can you even describe it?” the father of Damian said, retired police general Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1979.
He said his son was “obedient” and “respectful.”
The younger Damian volunteered to be deployed in Zamboanga City, where his family was based, immediately after he finished an Airborne course.
“The father in me wanted to tell him to take a break first, after all he is entitled with such because he just finished school. But the soldier in me said that he had to go on duty,” the elder Damian said. He sent his son off to Villamor airbase last week, the day after graduation, to fly to Zamboanga.
He described his son as a “professional soldier” and someone “very aggressive,” adding that he wanted to take all difficult [military] courses…such as the Scout Ranger course and Light Reaction course.
“He also had plans of joining the Special Forces after he finished his Airborne course. He wanted to be all that he could be,” he added.
The junior’s assignment was to replace First Lieutenant John Khristopher Rama of the Army’s First Light Reaction Company, who was killed in clashes a week before.
He left behind a nine-year-old daughter and his young widow – Navy Lieutenant Aemy Leslie Campos, also from PMA Class 2007.
Before going to Camp Aguinaldo, Aquino also visited the wake of two other slain officers in Bulacan — Rama in Norzagaray and then of First Lieutenant Florencio Mikael Esguerra Meneses in Pulilan.
At least a hundred had been killed from the fighting, with 17 of them from the military side.