Soldier killed in Zambo given highest military honor

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, December 20, posthumously bestowed the Medal of Valor, the highest military honor, on Private First Class Ian Paquit for his bravery in the Zamboanga City crisis.

He died after he intentionally put himself in the line of fire to save his team. He was 21.

It was the 3rd week of the standoff with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when his team, the 3rd Scout Rangers Company, was trapped in heavy exchanges of fire in Barangay Sta Barbara.

To allow the troops to reposition, Pacquit left his covered position to get a better line of sight and provide cover fire.

"With the courage, dedication and sacrifice of Private First Class Ian Pacquit, further casualties were avoided and the neutralization of enemy firing positions greatly contributed to the clearing and capture of enemy strongholds," according to the military report.

His heroic move resulted in the capture of 41 MNLF rebels and the death of another 15. 

It proved costly for Pacquit, however. Bullets came flying and they hit his left neck. He was brought to hospital, his second trip there for that military operation against the MNLF.

He was wounded earlier, on Week 1, when a shrapnel hit his face. He was brought to the hospital but immediately asked to be returned to the combat zone.

The Medal of Valor award entitles a soldier to a string of benefits, including scholarship for his dependents. Pacquit was not married, however. His 16-year-old brother is mulling options to enter the Philippine Military Academy.

The Zamboanga standoff was an urban warfare in the worst possible place. In the heavily populated coastal barangays, there were many occasions when the soldiers were a few meters away from the MNLF rebels and their hostages.

They could see them from across the street or they were just inside the next building. They were shouting invectives at each other. But the soldiers could not shoot or throw bombs without hurting the hostages whom the rebels had turned into human shield. 

Eighteen soldiers died in the 20-day standoff, but the military considers it a successful operation because they saved most of the hostages. Two out of 198 hostages died. – Rappler.com

Editor's note: We earlier wrote that his rank was First Lieutenant. It is Private First Class. We regret the error.