Looking Through the Eyes of our Leaders

“Leadership is influencing our troops towards the accomplishment of our mission while maintaining a high degree of motivation and morale.” — Cpt Jiro Poblacion

The Commander on Duty

Kind, humble, soft-spoken, and unassuming. A battle-tested leader who remains cool and calm under pressure. A focused commander who personally goes to check on the welfare of his troops. A man of courage who fought alongside with his men. A commander who dug his boots and put up camp in the MBA. A team player who would rather see others in the limelight rather than himself. Patient, friendly, and approachable. One who is willing to take the fall for his team and who would rather give credit to his men rather than himself. A leader who listens to his personnel, leads by example, and inspires others to do their best. Clearly a man for others.

As the JTF Marawi Commander, Lt Gen Bautista possessed the following leadership traits:

● Purposeful, driven, and decisive
● Knowledgeable on the inter-operability of forces
● Harnessed the potential of volunteerism in the rehabilitation efforts
● Has good communication skills
● Skilled negotiator and peacemaker
● Appreciates culture and understands gender differences
● Has good interpersonal skills

Army Leadership in Action

Former CGPA, Lt Gen Efren Abu once said that, “The Philippine Army today has three main roles: as protector of the country from both external and internal threats, as guardians of the country’s socio-political system, and as a dynamic proponent for development. As such, the rationale of the Army, as a military force, spans from contributing to national leadership and development, providing security or functioning as a backdrop of negotiations, to an instrument of policy implementation.”

1Lt Narciso Braga of the Charlie Company, 63rd Infantry Battalion His leadership and courage was tested during an operation to clear building 1018, a building occupied by enemy snipers. From this vantage point, the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group inflicted many casualties on the government forces through their sniper and RPG fires. This building was well defended by an undetermined number of terrorists.

He led the planning and execution of the assault and clearing operations on building 1018 that lasted for almost eight
hours. He instructed his troops to create rat holes that they utilized as passage points toward building 1018. With courage and determination, our troops forced the ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group to abandon their positions at building 1018 at 1600H of the same day. We recovered assorted war materials with high intelligence value from the said building.

Our mission of clearing and securing building 1018 was accomplished with zero casualties on our side.

Lt Col Samuel Yunque of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion (1SRB) believed that having a clear, precise, well executed, and timely plan minimized casualties and caught the enemy off guard. They were carrying out a combat operation in the boundary of Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon against communist terrorists.

After three days, their operation was terminated due to a call for reinforcement in Marawi City. They hurdled three grueling days of exfiltration to attain the necessary speed in order to reinforce the units in the City of Marawi. They were determined to reach the city at the soonest possible time.

The action and the devotion of the troops under his leadership did not go to waste – they were able to rescue the troops of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Batallion (5MechBn) after four days of intense battle with the enemy forces in the center of Marawi City. They were also able to rescue ten civilians trapped in the city’s MBA.

Cpt Erwin Czar Ercilla felt sick upon being deployed to the MBA. He however, led the company despite having several ailments on his body. As an Army leader, the sense of commandership is important. Feeling that he was responsible for the welfare of his team, therefore, he must bear the suffering of his ailments quietly, and stand with his men. He felt he had to see everything through until the end.

In the morning of the 9th of June 2017, the 1st Scout Ranger Company (1SRC) and 2nd Scout Ranger Company (2SRC) continued their movement forward, and at about 1300H, he called the key leaders of 2SRC to update them on the situation and status of the frontline troops. While talking to the key leaders, he told himself that the physical pain coming from his swollen right foot, gastritis, and other stress-related diseases, should not hinder his performance. Despite these illnesses, he felt the need to continue his duties and responsibilities, and managed to still look after the welfare of his team. As a leader-commander, he felt a sense of duty to carry his troops and lead them on towards the attainment of their mission.

Late afternoon of the same day, he fell down due to his illnesses and was immediately evacuated to the Kilala detachment, and was airlifted to Camp Evangelista, Station Hospital, 4th Infantry Division (4ID).

Cpt Monroe Bongyad, fresh from paternal leave from Bicol is another example of a leader’s selflesness. Right before the Marawi crisis, his wife delivered their child who was in critical condition. He should have been there to take care of his family but because duty called and his men needed him, he went to Marawi City without letting his wife know that he was going to fight in the Battle of Marawi. He left Bicol and went back to his unit, the 7th Scout Ranger Company (7SRC), which had already left Basilan for Marawi City. Such sacrifices are part and parcel of leadership.

Lt Col Christopher Tampus of the 1st Infantry Battalion (1ID) embodies the leadership principles of preparedness, adaptability, and professionalism. His battalion was deployed from Luzon to Marawi City under the orders from higher headquarters. When asked, there was no hint of doubt from Lt Col Tampus – he said a resounding “Yes” showing that he was ready to take on the mission in Mindanao. Being prepared though didn’t mean not taking into consideration the possible risks involved in the ongoing battle in Marawi City. They had to adapt to another culture, as Luzon definitely has a different culture from Mindanao. The nature of urban warfare is also a challenge, as most of the time, one cannot see the enemy and therefore, one’s protection was a vital concern. Force protection should be kept in check at all times, equipment should be complete and functioning. They also needed to adapt to the pressing concern of coordinating foot soldiers with snipers, indirect fire support from mortar, and the like.

Yet, these risks, while they were present, did not stop Lt Col Tampus and his men from applying what they learned, and adapting to new scenarios – therefore, in the process, they gained new experiences enabling them to grow. First and foremost, he believed that a soldier, and more so a leader, must be professional, and be ready to be assigned anywhere in the Philippines, in any conflict, at any given time. This holds true as well since they belonged to a maneuver unit – which spends more time in combat and training, as part of the preparation before actually being deployed anywhere and anytime. The deployment in Marawi City tested their training, preparation, mindset, equipment, and warrior ethos, in response to a conflict such as in Marawi City.

Despite casualties, which is a reality in warfare, they did well considering that their mission was to secure the controlled areas and prevent the enemy from escaping from the main battle area. This proved that despite the unit being transferred from a place with a different operating environment, they were successfully able to adapt to urban warfare. This displayed the brand of Lt Col Tampus and the 1st Infantry Battalion’s (1IB) professionalism in support of the overall mission of JTF Marawi.

Cpt Jennylyn Tamacay was one of the female soldiers who fought during the Battle of Marawi. She was the Alpha Company Commander of the 3rd Field Artillery Battalion (3FAB) deployed in Marawi City. Leading an artillery company battalion was never an easy task. She was expected to make crucial decisions regarding the daily operations of the combat unit. She needed to direct and control artillery fire in the battlefield. She gives the go signal to fire canons pointed at the enemy.

In a male-dominated profession, Cpt Tamacay was proof that women are taking up more active roles in times of war. Gone are the days when women were relegated to office work or part of the support staff so more men could be sent out for combat. After graduation from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), she was assigned in Mindanao and the Visayas, and later on in the Battle of Marawi.

Lt Col Ryan Severo of the 10th Infantry Battalion (10IB) best exemplifies servant leadership among his troops. His transitioning role as the incoming commander of the 44th Infantry Battalion (44IB) and then eventually as the commander ordered to replace the relieved commander of 10IB is a story that needs to be told. His assignment in Marawi City was unforeseen and a lot had already been happening prior to his actual deployment to Marawi City, including the high number of casualties, wounded soldiers, thousands of civilians trapped in the conflict zones, and civilian hostages held by the enemy. But these challenges did not make him any less of a leader. He exemplified adaptability, flexibility, and readiness under pressure. Amidst the low morale of his troops, Lt Col Severo encouraged the battalion to move on, initiated moves to motivate his personnel, incorporated the opinions/suggestions of his subordinates in their plans, trained his troops, organized sustainment for his soldiers for the long haul, recognized/awarded good perfomance, and brought back spunk to his men which transformed them into a highly charged battalion.

Although the unit lacked the required number of soldiers, he worked it out by carefully mapping out their strategy and delegating tasks to his troops with some of them taking double the load. With careful planning and constant updating, the battalion was able to improve their rear operations. He made sure that the troops on the ground were well-provided for with the supplies and resources that they needed in order to sustain their strength and enable them to assault their targets. These included: food, medicine, vitamins, tools, and other essentials.

Going Beyond the Call of Duty: Cpt Rommel Sandoval of the 11th Scout Ranger Company

Lt Col JC Lontoc, Commander, 4th Scout Ranger Battalion (4SRB) recalled, “My combined troops met the worst battle of their lives, with two of them making the ultimate sacrifice either of them could ever give – their lives.”

On the 10th of September 2017, as a Commander of the combined troops, we were engaged in heavy firefight with the enemies in the pursuit of our objectives – to clear the buildings and to move forward while clearing the vicinity, sector-by-sector in the MBA. We were supported by the armor units, the 105mm howitzers, and the FA-50 Jet Fighter in our operations. Our troops sustained a number of wounded men and two KIAs. One of them was the late Cpt Sandoval who did an exceptional act of courage by saving one of his men at the cost of his own life during the ongoing Battle of Marawi. In our clearing operation of a five-storey building, we started from the fifth floor going down to the first. Upon reaching the ground floor, three of our men were fired at by terrorists, who were hiding in one corner of the building. The three engaged the enemy while the rest maneuvered to fall back and regroup on the third floor.

But unfortunately, Corporal J.M. was hit by a bullet on his right arm and suffered injuries from a grenade blast. Cpt Sandoval saw Cpl J.M., who was hit twice, fall on the ground. Calculating Cpl J.M.’s critical condition, Cpt Sandoval acted on his own and went to rescue his wounded trooper alone.

As their Battalion Commander, Cpt Sandoval informed me about the critical situation that they were in through radio communication. While he did the SOPs of reporting the current situation, he also intimated his desire to rescue his trooper. Seeing a blind spot in the terrorists’ offense, he crossed to the adjacent building on the eastern portion and crawled through the holes towards the location of Cpl J.M. His efforts were witnessed by another soldier, and our other team members provided him with cover fires, and threw hand grenades to divert the attention of the enemies crowding the place.

Cpt Sandoval maneuvered his way until he found the wounded Cpl J.M. As with the usual SOP, he tried to drag Cpl J.M. to safety for immediate medical evacuation but he was spotted by the enemy and fired at. We never saw Cpt. Sandoval burst in anger or yell at the enemy though he was fatally wounded on his neck. In his dying moments, he was able to summon all his remaining strength to cover Cpl J.M.’s body from the enemy’s volley of fire, sustaining all the bullets himself.

Another of our personnel, Private First Class (Pfc) Sherwin Canapi, who covered Cpt Sandoval, was also shot at by the enemies repeatedly, instantly killing him. On that day, two brave men fought to their death and offered their own lives for their fellow soldiers and the Filipino nation. There is no greater sacrifice that a soldier can give other than the laying of his own life in the service of his country.

Importance of Communication in Leadership

Communication is a double-edged sword that can be used by opposing forces to advance their respective agenda. We realized the value of effective communication during the crisis by altering the information environment to suit our needs, we successfully countered the context of the widespread dissemination of disinformation by the enemy.

“We stepped up the efforts to shape and dominate the information environment in order to make it favorable to the government efforts in liberating the City,” Lt Col Jo-ar Herrera.

Our stories are being passed on to the next generation of leaders and we hope they can put them in good stead. The challenge of leadership entails a long and arduous process, beginning with character and values formation obtained during one’s formative years, gaining knowledge from education, and acquiring a wealth of experience accumulated through the years.

This entry is part of Book 1: Leading from the Heart.)

Click here to to go back to Book 1 Contents.