MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 1, 2010) – Ten government soldiers were awarded medals Monday for their roles in helping improve the peace and order in the restive province of Maguindanao, where 57 people had been brutally killed last year.
Two pro-government militias were also awarded medals for their contribution in maintaining peace in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
Acting governor of Maguindanao Bai Nariman Ambolodto gave the awards during the flag ceremony attended by senior military commanders headed by Major General Anthony Alcantara and government officials at the provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak town. She said the awards were given as a show of gratitude in maintaining peace and security in the province.
Maguindanao is still under a state of emergency following the gruesome murders of 57 people, including at least 31 journalists on November 23 by the scion of a powerful political clan, Andal Ampatuan Jr., the mayor of Datu Unsay town.
Among those murdered were the wife and two sisters and supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, the vice mayor of Buluan town who is running for governor of Maguindanao – a position being held by the mayor’s father and namesake, Andal Ampatuan Sr. - in the May elections.
The Ampatuan and the Mangudadatu clans are bitter political foe in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region, whose governor, Zaldy Ampatuan, is a brother of Andal Ampatuan Jr. All three politicians, including other clan members and supporters, had been arrested in connection with the killings. They denied involvement in the murders.
Army Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Hao, of the 6th Infantry Division, said those who were awarded also fought some 180 gunmen in three separate attacks in Maguindanao.
“The acting governor personally thanked the men and women in uniform based in her province and bowed to support the peace and security measures that are being undertaken to ensure normalcy and economic activity in Maguindanao,” he said.
Those who received awards were Army First Lieutenant Alvin Cardenas, Second Lieutenant Rene Gatugan Jr., Sergeants Eduardo Bautista and Pinion Lim; Corporals Mamerto Abarcar and Joseph Soriano – all from the 9th Scout Ranger Company - who fought against some 30 gunmen in Shariff Aguak town of January 24.
And Army Corporal Adonis Lagmay, militia members Ronel Dagadas and Bobby Tagiled, of the 25th Maguindanao Civilian Armed Auxiliary Company under the 38th Infantry Battalion who fought and defended their post in Datu Hofer town against 100 gunmen on January 10.
And also Army Captain Abdila Mangoramas, Staff Sergeants Alex Brosas and Ranilo Aguilar, of the 46th Infantry Battalion based in Shariff Aguak. They also fought and defended their patrol base in Shariff Aguak town from attacks by 50 gunmen on December 14.
Meanwhile, the military also said Monday that security preparations in Maguindanao are on track in connection with the May 10 national elections.
Colonel Ernesto Aradanas, commander of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, said the operations against illegal weapons are going on in the province and have so far recovered at least 271firearms issued to the government militias after authorities enforced a total gun ban in the country.
Most of the weapons came from militias based in the towns of Parang, North Upi, South Upi, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Guindulungan, Talitay, and Talayan.
“The main goal of all these security measures is to achieve an atmosphere of peace conducive to development in the province of Maguindanao,” Aradanas said. (Mindanao Examiner)