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Medic chose to save others than self

/ 01:20 AM January 31, 2015
Police load into the truck a body bag of their comrade during a retrieval operation on Jan. 26 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Police load into the truck a body bag of their comrade during a retrieval operation on Jan. 26 in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Michelle Candano, 31, found some measure of comfort from the words of one of the survivors of the Jan. 25 Maguindanao clash, who recalled the last moments of her husband, PO1 Windel Candano, 32, a medic of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).

He could have chosen to save himself amid the heavy gunfire during the encounter in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao province, but he chose to stay and treat the wounded until he himself was fatally shot, the survivors told the widow.

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In fact, Windel’s comrades at the SAF called up his widow to express their gratitude for his dedication and heroism, as he did not attempt to hide or escape during the gunfight. Instead dragged the wounded policemen away from the firefight and started treating them.

“He could have walked away and saved himself but he chose to save others,” said his widow, a resident of Barangay Mambaling in Cebu City. “I know he knew he could end up dead but still, he stood firm on his responsibility to his colleagues who were like brothers to him,” she added.

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But though the pain of losing her husband was somewhat eased by the story of his heroism, Michelle lamented that Windel was also robbed of his personal belongings.

She recalled that they were celebrating their son Gabriel’s 9th birthday on Jan. 24 when her husband called to tell her that he would be going on a dangerous police operation. He said they were going to a place where it would be difficult to get out alive.

His words kept her awake, said Michelle, who recalled that Windel would usually call after every operation so she would not worry.

No calls

But this time, no calls came.

When she decided to call her husband on Sunday, someone else picked up the call, a man who seemed to be speaking in a different dialect, “something spoken in Mindanao.”

“When I asked about my husband, the person on the other line hang up on me,” she recalled.

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Michelle then received a text message saying that her husband’s phone now belongs to someone else because he is already dead.

She initially thought it was a prank, until her husband’s colleague called to tell her that he was among the SAF members killed in the Mamasapano encounter.

“I just can’t imagine how the same person who killed my husband could take his personal belongings. Those belongings should be given to us,” Michelle said.

She and Windel had been married nine years, said the contractual employee at the Philippine Post Office here.

Due for promotion

Her husband was a graduate of electrical engineering, but took the exam to become a policeman. When he became part of the PNP-SAF, he was assigned to the medical team. He was due for promotion as police officer 2, Michelle said.

Windel’s parents Eusebio and Marciana Candano said the government should conduct a thorough investigation on what happened in Maguindanao.

“It seems to be a very bad mission, something that should not have been given a go signal. It was like the men became baits and were trapped and brutally killed,” Eusebio said.

Windel’s wife, father, and three other family members flew to Manila on Wednesday night to claim his remains. They also confirmed that they had already received a call from Malacañang, asking them for any possible help they needed, including employment for Michelle and educational benefits for their son.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it was extending help to the kin of the PNP-SAF men killed in the encounter, including psychosocial counseling, livelihood assistance, and education for the children. Other forms of aid would be given to the families, depending on the outcome of the counseling sessions, DSWD Secretary Corazon Soliman said.

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TAGS: Maguindanao, Mamasapano, Michelle Candano, Philippine National Police, Special Action Force, Windel Candano
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