PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Monday conferred awards to the officers and enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who defended Zamboanga City from the armed followers of Nur Misuari, leader of a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Sixteen out of more than 2,000 soldiers who successfully accomplished their mission in the 18-day Zamboanga crisis last September personally received the honor from the Commander-in-Chief shortly after a flag-raising activity in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Lieutenant Colonel Oriel Pangcog (Battalion Commander of Joint Special Operations Task Group Arrow) and Captain Reynir Nirza (AFP Joint Operations Group) were the two recipients of the Distinguished Conduct Star award for their acts of courage in the face of the enemy.
The Distinguished Service Star award was given to Lieutenant General Rey Ardo (Western Mindanao Command), Brigadier General Rodelio Santos (Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations), and Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala (Chief, AFP Public Affairs Office) for their valuable service during the crisis.
The Gold Cross medal, meanwhile, was posthumously awarded to Army First Lieutenant Francis Damian who died after sustaining gunshot wounds inflicted by members of the MNLF Misuari faction during an encounter. His wife, Lieutenant junior grade Army Leslie Damian, received the honor on his behalf.
Other recipients of this award include Army First Lieutenant Jerson Jurilla, Marine First Lieutenant Dexter Carin, and Navy Lieutenant junior grade Joey Cayao, along with enlisted personnel Army Sergeant Larry Lopez, Navy F1MR Abelardo Angelo, Air Force Sergeant Salvador Codon, Jr. and Army Staff Sergeant Allan Adap.
Corporal Eduardo Saquing, Jr., who died in the height of the crisis, was also given the Gold Cross medal posthumously and received by his father, Mr. Eduardo Saquing, Sr.
Major Caezar Almer Candelaria was awarded the Bronze Cross medal for his acts of heroism involving risks of life as team leader of the Medical Team, Special Operations Task Group.
Air Force Major Renie Aureo and Army Captain Dranreb Lansang were given the Military Merit medal with Bronze Spearhead Device, while Marine Private First Class Eduardo Jose received the Wounded Personnel medal.
In his speech, Aquino conveyed his deepest gratitude to every soldier and policeman who fought courageously to protect the welfare of the citizens in Zamboanga.
"Habambuhay pong babantayog ang inyong dedikasyon at propesyonalismo sa kasaysayan. Magsisilbi kayong huwaran 'di lamang ng kasalukuyang henerasyon kundi maging ng susunod na salinlahi," he said.
Monday’s awarding ceremony at the AFP headquarters was just one among the many tributes set for the 2,473 soldiers who participated in the said crisis either in administrative or combat capacity. (SDR/Sunnex)