Bond of brothers from Palo, Leyte, to secure Pope
PALO, Leyte—In a fortuitous twist of fate, three brothers—a police official, an Army colonel and a military chaplain—have been thrust into the challenge of a lifetime: Securing Pope Francis during his visit on Saturday.
Msgr. Tirso Dolina, 55, chief chaplain of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and his two younger brothers—Chief Supt. Asher Dolina, 53, police regional director for Eastern Visayas, and Col. Dinoh Dolina, 51, commander of the 802nd Army Brigade based in Ormoc City—will lead 15,000 police officers, soldiers and clergymen to ensure the security of the Pope.
The leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics will meet with survivors of last year’s Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) and the 2013 Bohol earthquake as part of his four-day visit to the Philippines.
Born and raised in Palo, the three brothers, all devout Catholics, will also look after the safety of one million pilgrims expected to flock to this small town to see the Pope.
Palo is the seat of the Archdiocese of Palo, whose 76 parishes in Leyte and Samar provinces are home to at least two million Catholics. The town itself has a population of 64,000.
“I waited for a moment like this. My prayers have been answered,” the brood’s 87-year-old mother Restituta said over dinner on Thursday night.
Beaming with pride over her sons, all of them bemedaled officers, the widow recalled how her late husband had always dreamed of military glory for his three sons.
“The failed dream of the father was realized by his fortunate sons,” she said of Leonardo Dolina, a former Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet and a retired policeman, who died on Oct. 16, 2007, when his sons were already moving up in their careers.
The Dolina brothers have a combined service record of 95 years.
“We are so blessed that three of Palo’s sons are involved in these preparations,” said Fr. Chris Arthur H. Militante, social communications director of the Archdiocese of Palo.
“It’s as if the stars in the heavens have aligned and the Dolina brothers are right in the middle of it,” said Francisco Acedillo, 70, a retired Army colonel who knows the three brothers personally.
“This is history in the making. This may not happen again,” added Acedillo, a 30-year veteran and father of Magdalo party list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo.
As chief chaplain of the AFP, Monsignor Dolina—a colonel in the AFP’s Technical Administrative Services—will coordinate close-in security with the clergy, the Presidential Security Group and a small contingent of the Swiss Guards, the crack team of Swiss Catholic soldiers who have been guarding Popes since the 15th century.
“This papal visit is a sanctifying moment for all of us. I hope and pray that we live up to the challenge,” said Dolina, a graduate of Sacred Heart Seminary here. Ordained in 1985, he was commissioned as a captain when he entered the Navy in 1989.
As ground commander of Task Force Francis, Col. Dinoh Dolina is in charge of the peripheral security in the sites to be visited by Francis, including nearby hills, mountains and rivers.
He has deployed 4,000 soldiers, 2,000 reservists and 10 military trucks to make sure that pilgrims get to the sites where they could see the Pope.
“I am humbled but I welcome this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect the Holy Father and serve the people as well,” said the graduate of the PMA Sandiwa Class of 1985.
Colonel Dolina headed Task Group Yolanda in Tacloban following the supertyphoon last year, and secured Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport as disaster workers launched a massive humanitarian drive for the typhoon victims.
Some of the colonel’s troops will again secure the airport, site of the papal Mass at 10 on Saturday morning, which is expected to draw at least a million people.
With 9,000 police officers under his command, Chief Supt. Asher Dolina, who heads Joint Task Force Leyte, is in charge of crowd control.
His job entails a balancing act: How to make sure that security measures are in place without hampering the people’s access to the Pope.
“It’s tricky, but it can be done,” said the graduate of PMA Matikas Class of 1983. Having graduated as well from the British Royal Marine Commando, he is a veritable Green Beret. He is also a lawyer who became chief superintendent in July 2013.
Dolina was part of the crack intelligence team that destroyed the network of international terrorist Ramzi Yousef, who planned the 1995 failed plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II during his Manila visit.
On Thursday night, the three brothers were reunited with their mother at Asher Dolina’s private quarters inside Camp Ruperto Kangleon at Barangay Campetic.
Like a group of boys with mischief in their eyes, the three teased their mother, a healthy octogenarian, needling her to reveal who among them was her favorite. She ignored them, intent on enjoying her dinner.
As their mother went to bed, her sons—all former seminarians—toasted themselves with a bottle of Double Black Johnny Walker and a slab of grilled liempo with this writer, also a Palo native and a classmate of Colonel Dolina.
“We live to serve (and) embrace our faith deeply,” Monsignor Dolina said. “All these challenges before us will soon come to pass,” the chaplain added.
The Army officer and the police officer are married to government doctors, Asher Dolina to Emie Suanino, 57, and Dinoh Dolina to Susan Tanseco, 51. Both couples have seven sons and a daughter.
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