THE remains of a soldier, who had gone missing during the Marawi conflict and was later found dead, were accorded military honors on Wednesday, January 10.

Captain Maria Rowena Dalmacio, director of the Philippine Marine Corps Public Affairs Office, said the remains of Private Alejandro Balean arrived at the Villamor Airbase on Tuesday evening from Iligan City.

Balean was a member of the 7th Marine Battalion Landing Team who took part in the military operations against the Maute terrorists during the five-month armed conflict in Marawi City last year.

According to his comrades, Balean fell into the Agus River while their platoon was maneuvering against the enemy on June 9, 2017.

They said they tried to rescue him but the current was strong and they had to take cover from a hail of gunfire.

On August 3, the Marine Battalion Landing Team 7 was informed about the recovery of an unidentified body which was already in a stage of advanced decomposition in Barangay Rurog Agus, Marawi City.

The cadaver was clad in an olive drab shirt, pants, tactical belt, black pouch and wooden beads bracelet with “Kamay ni Jesus” markings.

The body was subjected to forensic examination and DNA identification by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Officers from the PNP- Crime Laboratory took DNA samples from Balean’s siblings, which were found to match those from the body.

The recovery of Balean’s body brought the number of government troops killed in the Marawi siege to 168.

The Marawi armed conflict erupted on May 23, 2017 and prompted the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. Government troops fought for five months to liberate Marawi from Maute terrorists inspired by the Islamic State.

Although the armed conflict has ended and rehabilitation of the war-ravaged city has commenced, martial law in Mindanao has been extended until the end of 2018 to allow government troops to wipe out all armed groups that pose threats to the region's and country's security. (SunStar Philippines)