CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Gilbert Gapay on Saturday commemorated the heroism of government forces that helped in the liberation of war-torn Marawi City.

“I share the honor and glory of every soldier of the AFP in giving our snappiest salute to all our heroes, the sung and the unsung, for all that they have done in the fulfilment of their sworn duties to protect and serve our nation and our people. Their service and their sacrifice is a legacy that will live on forever,” General Gapay said.

The government is commemorating the third year of the Liberation of Marawi after a five-month battle that led to the defeat of the Daesh-inspired terrorist Maute Group from May to October 2017. The inter-agency activities were held in the city on October 17, 2020 where an inauguration ceremony for Bonggolo Bridge and ground breaking activity for the proposed Bato Mosque were held. Also conducted was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Heroes Memorial inside Philippine Army’s 103rd Brigade headquarters.

In a video message, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Secretary Carlito Galvez said the Bonggolo Bridge became vital to military troops during their fight against the terrorist.

“Had it not been for this bridge, it would have been very difficult for government forces to successfully carry out its mission. Today the Bonggolo Bridge will serve an entirely different purpose; it will help with social cohesion and mutual trust and understanding among residents,” Secretary Galvez said.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamara on the other hand expressed his gratitude to the men and women in uniform for not giving up on the Maranao people even after its liberation.

“To the valiant and courageous men and women in uniform, who have fought and even laid down their lives so that the Philippine Flag could still fly high above and free in the flagpoles all over Marawi City, we owe it all to you. Three years on, we are still telling your family that your sacrifices have not been in vain,” said Mayor Gandamara.

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr, BARMM Deputy Chief Minister and Marawi Special Committee Chairperson Ali Solaiman, and Task Force Bangon Marawi Chairman and Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario also attended the ceremonies.

“The war was over but we have never left Marawi. To date, our soldiers still actively participate in endeavors that pursue peace and development in Marawi. We have not ceased in giving our 100%, war or no war,” General Gapay said.

The AFP continues to be a part of government-initiated infrastructure projects by providing the expertise, skills, man-power, and equipment instrumental in the completion of various projects inside the Most Affected Area (MAA). It joins the Task Force Bangon Marawi in carrying out measures to hasten the remaining projects so it could meet the respective deadlines amid the pandemic and other challenges.

The military likewise continues to engage with stakeholders who share the same objectives in providing assistance and support to the people of Marawi. Among projects outside the MMA are school buildings for the displaced Maranao children.

Meanwhile, it continues to uphold its stronghold in Marawi with no similar acts of terrorism occurring in the past three years. Field units are also doing well in foiling the plans of local terrorists, some of whom even returned to the folds of the government.

General Gapay said the intensified implementation of E.O. 70 was a big factor in advancing the peace and progress in the city and nearby areas citing the military and local communities’ harmonized efforts paved way to a holistic approach needed to counter insurgency and terrorism.

“We are hopeful to the good the Anti-Terrorism Law will bring. We’ve already lost too many lives, including innocent citizens who are victims of different terrorist acts. With the implementation of this law, we now have better means to defend the nation against threats to our peace,” General Gapay said./// (Photos by TSg Randulf Obinque PAF/PAOAFP)