Marawi’s frontman

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato (The Philippine Star) - July 5, 2019 - 12:00am

(An exclusive with Secretary Rolando Bautista, Part 1)

Thanks to a dear friend, journalist and co-educator Drei Toledo, I was literally offered the chance to pose some questions to the man in the front lines of Marawi - DSWD Secretary Bautista. As a reservist, it is both an honor as well as my duty to communicate to the public the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform more so the leadership that stands by them. Indeed, Secretary Bautista is what many of us can call a servant leader. Just like every soldier in the Philippine Army, Secretary Bautista was ready to face the challenges of any war and conflict as he has been in the battlefield all throughout his career.

Marawi was yet another great opportunity for him to serve the Filipino people and secure our land from any threat. Considering that we are part of an archipelago where our soldiers come from different backgrounds, the Secretary kept his men together by leading through his example and bringing out the best in his personnel. During the Marawi crisis, the Secretary employed various units of our government security forces with different functions and skills to execute combined arms, as well as a joint and interagency approach against the ISIS-Maute terrorist group. Soldiers remained focused on neutralizing the enemy while emphasizing synergy, synchronization, coordination and integration of various competencies as well as war fighting capabilities.

In terms of moral, where on a regular day soldiers already struggle with basic everyday needs, not to mention being far from their own families, the Secretary managed to level expectations and bring out his men’s patriotic spirit through the kind of leadership that optimizes and compliments both strengths and skills in order to finish the fight. Effective sustainment in addressing anxieties also played a very crucial role. In every battle, the most important component behind the scene as the Secretary explained, is sustainment. Sustainment units ensured the availability of various classes of supplies that ranged from ammunition to the most basic such as food and clothing as well as ensuring that the wounded were treated accordingly. All such components were essential to the mission. Effective sustainment enabled our fighting forces in Marawi to maintain the offensive stance against the enemy which lead to the eventual defeat of the terrorist group and the liberation of the City.

“Digging my boots” as the Secretary says and putting up camp in the main battle area, focus as a ground commander together with his foot soldiers were all risks he shared in the frontlines. Personally checking on the welfare of his troops, Secretary Bautista was firm and decisive in providing clear directions while making sure that all of the unit commanders who fought alongside their men were a steady source of motivation for all those involved in the mission. These acts of courage kept the morale of our troops at a very high level.

Because he loved his country more than himself, the Secretary was willing to sacrifice his own life for the sake of peace. He believed that his passion, empathy, and dedication to serve our fellow Filipinos and secure our beloved land cascaded to his unit commanders down the last foot soldier. This became a game-changer and enabled the troops to optimize resources which also motivated them to comply in fulfilling their respected duties eventually leading to the triumph over the forces of a fanatic, vicious, and cruel enemy.

Providing direction lays down the steps on how the mission should be accomplished. Tasks were prioritized, responsibilities for completion were assigned and he made sure that every soldier understood the plan, so that they can execute the appropriate actions that will ensure the mission’s accomplishment. All of the Secretary’s ground unit commanders were able to inspire and share the hardships with the troops from the rear all the way to the frontlines.

When asked about his approach in the main battle area, the Secretary explained that  during the Marawi crisis, hard power and soft power strategy was employed utilizing various units of our government security forces to execute combined arms, joint, and interagency approach against the ISIS-Maute terrorist group. His team kept our soldiers focused on neutralizing the enemy while emphasizing that human rights should be upheld at all costs. Respect for culture and religious icons/structures was paramount. I couldn’t help but ask - “We won the battle but are we still at war ? “ Secretary Bautista explained... “We might have won the armed conflict against the ISIS-Maute terrorist group in Marawi City’s main battle area. We might have also won the battle to win the hearts and minds of the affected communities in Marawi City but the battle to win long-lasting peace in conflict-stricken areas is far from over as long as lawless elements continue to operate and sow fear among Filipinos.     (To be continued)

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