Ileto buried with honors at Libingan

- Mike Frialde -
A hero of the nation was laid to rest yesterday.

Former defense secretary Rafael "Rocky" Ileto, the father of the Philippine Army’s crack Scout Rangers, was buried with full military honors at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani at Fort Bonifacio in Makati City at noon yesterday.

Ileto died last Thursday at the Philippine Heart Center after a heart attack. He was 82.

He was brought to the military cemetery after a 9 a.m. Mass at the Veterans Center at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Ileto’s flag-draped coffin was carried out of the Veterans Center to a waiting black hearse with six generals, led by Marine Brig. Gen. Vicente Buenaventura, serving as pallbearers while the Philippine Army Band played a salute.

The hearse arrived at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani at 11:05 a.m. and the coffin was transferred onto a gun carriage pulled by a white truck.

The Army band then played a funeral dirge as the procession made its way to the designated plot inside the military cemetery.

Joining family members and friends in the funeral procession were elements from the Philippine Army, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Air Force and the 7th Company of the First Scout Ranger Regiment.

As the funeral procession moved, a Huey helicopter hovered above and showered the crowd with yellow and red rose petals.

Interestingly, Ileto was buried next to Arturo Enrile, former Armed Forces chief of staff who later served as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications. Enrile died on Jan. 14, 1998.

Enrile was known as the most loved chief of staff while Ileto was the most loved defense chief. After a short blessing from the priest, relatives took turns in blessing the coffin with holy water.

Shortly thereafter, the flag on the casket was folded and solemnly handed to Ileto’s 50-year old widow, Yrna Avelino Dulce. Ileto and Yrna were married in 1994, five years after the death of Ileto’s first wife, Olga.

At exactly 11:45 a.m., a squad of soldiers fired a 21-gun salute and the casket was slowly lowered into the grave.

At high noon, a lone Army trumpeter played "Taps." Scout rangers, in their trademark black uniforms, then followed by singing the regiment’s song.

Among those who paid their last respects to Ileto were former chief government peace negotiator Ambassador Manuel Yan, former defense secretary Renato de Villa, AFP chief Gen. Narciso Abaya and Army chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling.

Abaya said Ileto was a man who "lived his life to the full" and one of the most respected and revered officers in the Armed Forces.

"If you will look at his military career, it is very colorful, replete with so many achievements. He is known as the one who stood against the declaration of martial law. He put up with his principles and he died living up to that principle. He has lived his life to the full, he has left us a legacy and it’s time for him to rest," Abaya said.

Ileto had served as vice chief of the AFP from 1975 to 1978.

The highly respected Ileto would be remembered as the only general who opposed President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of martial rule on Sept. 21, 1972.

In 1951, he formed the Scout Rangers, which was the original men in black because of the unit’s black fatigues, berets, and balaclavas displaying the skin of the panther.

A panther’s image is sewn on the shoulders of every Scout Ranger’s fatigues to symbolize their expertise in jungle warfare and their ability to strike anywhere.

The regiment broke the back of the Hukbalahap rebellion in the 1950s. Trained in guerilla tactics, the Rangers operated in small teams of seven, tracked down the Huks in the jungle and ambush them.

One of their most successful techniques was to lie in wait for days to ambush unsuspecting rebels in places where the enemy thought were safe.

"Their unorthodox technique and strategy were so devastating that the Huks did not know what hit them," recalled retired Army chief Maj. Gen. Josephus Ramas, a former member of the First Scout Ranger Company. With PNA











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