No looted items found in soldiers’ stuff
MARAWI CITY—Battle-weary troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion had their belongings undergo rigid inspection before they left Marawi on Friday amid complaints that they may have looted some of the houses abandoned by residents who fled the city as soldiers battled pro-Islamic State (IS) fighters.
“This [inspection] would counter those claims,” said their commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Tampus.
“Me and my soldiers only had our personal belongings and our firearms. The battalion in itself was only bringing out what we had brought in, including supplies that we got while we were here,” Tampus said.
No stolen items, however, were discovered after the inspection.
The battalion based in Infanta town, Quezon province, was among the first Army groups that were deployed from Luzon to help fight the IS militants who laid siege to Marawi on May 23.
The militants were led by IS “emir” for Southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, who was killed along with Omar Maute, on Monday. The next day President Duterte declared the liberation of Marawi and the start of the city’s rehabilitation.
Tampus and his soldiers arrived on June 1 and were tasked to regain control of the bridge at the water pumping station near City Hall and the Masiu Bridge in the village of Raya Madaya.
He said he and 374 of his men were returning to their base where they would be trained for security duties for next month’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila.
He lost one soldier in the fighting and 11 were wounded, he said.
“Ours is a feeling of fulfillment because we have served the country and the people in this most trying and difficult time,” Tampus said.
He said they were leaving Marawi with pride and a clean conscience.
“We came here to serve,” Tampus said.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of Joint Task Group Ranao, had earlier admitted that some soldiers were caught with items that did not belong to them.
“They have been recalled and restricted to barracks and are now facing investigation and summary dismissal proceedings,” Brawner said.
He said their immediate superiors were being investigated as well under the principle of command responsibility.
Tampus said his troops helped restore peace and stability in Marawi “for the next generation to cherish.”
“With the full support of President Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I am proud to say my troops were part of the team Army with modern fighting equipment that contributed to the success of the fight and to liberate Marawi,” he said.
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