MANILA, Philippines – Talk about the rare and most sought-after Medal for Valor, the highest combat honor in the military, has begun as the government makes pronouncements that the Marawi crisis is nearing its end.
President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to the battle area last week said he is sure at least one soldier fighting the local terror groups there will receive the valor award. There could be more.
Duterte promised to give the awardee one of the most special guns in his own collection – a model used by the United States Marines – that may be used even under water.
"Kung sino 'yung valor-valor diyan – sigurado mayroon talaga 'yan," Duterte said in a speech before the troops in Marawi on Friday, August 4. (It's for the valor awardee – I'm sure there will be one from here.)
"Sigurado 'yan may mga valor dito. I'll give one [of my guns]. Kung marami kayo, bunot-bunot na lang," he added. (There will be a valor awardee from here for sure. I'll give one [of my guns]. If there will be more than one, you'll have to draw lots.)
The Medal for Valor is given to the soldier who shows exceptional act of courage. (READ: The legend of the soldier who said: 'Fire on my location')
It was last given in 2013, posthumously, to a soldier who fought the followers of Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege.
Private First Class Ian Pacquit was given the award for putting himself in the line of fire to save his team in Zamboanga. He was 21. (READ: Soldier killed in Zambo given highest military honor)
The vetting process for possible valor awardees among the Marawi soldiers has not started.
"The vetting will be done after the fighting is over," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler in a text message.
Duterte also promised the awardees a trip to Hong Kong with their partners or – it's not clear if he was joking – a celebrity of their choice. The generals laughed along with the President.
In 2016, Duterte increased the monthly gratuity of Medal for Valor awardees from P25,000 to P75,000.
Lorenzana said the President also wants to give a special rifle for the sniper who killed the most number of terrorists in Marawi.
"The President was gifted a barret sniper, which he wants to present to the AFP sniper who had the most kill in the Marawi conflict after the fighting is over," Lorenzana told Rappler in a text message.
The fighting that erupted on May 23 is now on its 3rd month. A total of 122 soldiers, 523 terrorists, and 45 civilians have been recorded killed.
The fighting also displaced nearly 400,000 residents of Marawi City and nearby towns. – Rappler.com