ARMY Major Arturo Dumalagan, 43, is heading back to war-torn Marawi to make up for the lost opportunity of defending it from Islamic terror group ISIS who reduced the city into rubble after seizing it for five months last year.
The Civil-Military Operations Regiment official based in Manila joined other government security forces during the send-off ceremony on June 21 at Colonel Jesus Villamor Air Base, Pasay City, to help in the rehabilitation and development of the Islamic city.
“This is my second time being deployed in Marawi City. My first deployment was on August 28, 2007 up to February 2013 fighting the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and contributed something in maintaining the peace in the city,” said Dumalagan, who hails from Eastern Visayas.
Last August 26, 2016, Dumalagan was also deployed in Sulu to help the fight against the militant and jihadist group Abu Sayyaf.
In between his previous assignments in Sulu and Marawi, Dumalagan initiated activities that successfully won the hearts and minds of the children and the people in the war-torn communities through civic works, which he would like to continue today in Marawi City.
“Being formerly assigned in Marawi for six years before the siege, I already gained the loyalty and friendship of the residents there. We had conducted plenty of civil-military activities there,” Dumalagan told SunStar Philippines.
“I may not have joined in regaining Marawi from the hands of the terrorists, but now I volunteered to be there so I could be of help in rebuilding the place. It would be a great pride on my part to stand side by side with fellow government forces in the recovery of the city,” said Dumalagan, who is known for his advocacy "Tsinelas Para Sa Kapayapaan" project in insurgency and poverty-stricken communities across the country.
At least 130 personnel of the 12th Civil-Military Operations “Kabukludan” Battalion and Hijab Troopers were part during the send-off ceremony as augmentation troops for the government-led rebuilding program.
The Philippine Army, in a statement, said the additional troops, composed of 105 soldiers and 25 Hijab troopers, will be under the operational control of the Joint Task Force Ranao.
The send-off ceremony was spearheaded by Major General Gener P. Del Rosario, the army inspector general who called on for a “unified efforts with civilians to ensure lasting stability and sustained national development” in the area.
“The female soldiers, who are not Muslims, are wearing hijab as a sign of respect to the culture of the women in the Islamic city. They are on a special mission, which includes organizing the ‘bakwit’ or internally displaced persons and ensuring the needs and the welfare of the younger children who were caught in the crossfire,” said Dumalagan, who will serve as executive officer of the specially-created battalion.
According to Dumalagan, the Hijab troopers were all ready to leave the comfort of their respective homes to help the displaced families in the different evacuation centers in Marawi.
“With the help of our kababayan, I prayed that the support you have entrusted to me when I was there in Sulu would be reinvigorated,” he said, as he expressed his hope that “the spirit of sharing and caring will be attained once again for the good of the displaced Muslim brothers and sisters in Marawi City.”
Meanwhile, Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Louie Villanueva said that the Philippine Army “will remain steadfast in performing its mandate, to serve the people and in securing the land.”
“Despite the prevailing security challenges, we will keep our word to support and extend our very best for the immediate recovery of Marawi,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)