The highest-ranking officer killed in the Marawi siege was posthumously conferred by President Rodrigo Duterte the Philippine’s highest military honor, Medal of Valor, for offering the greatest sacrifice of giving one’s life to a fellow comrade.
The late Captain Rommel Sandoval, commanding officer of the 11th Scout Ranger Company, was awarded the prestigious award on Wednesday during the 82nd anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
The Medal of Valor is bestowed to soldiers who perform “a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty so conspicuously as to distinguish him above his comrades.”
Sandoval, known to the troops for his call sign “Daredevil,” will be the latest recipient of the rarest and most coveted combat award in the military.
He was mentioned for having “distinguished himself in combat as he displayed extraordinary courage, bravery, sterling leadership, and professionalism by offering the greatest sacrifice of giving his life to a fellow comrade, thereby keeping with the finest tradition of soldiery.”
A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2005, Sandoval also received the Order of Lapu-Lapu (Magalong) Medal, a recognition to officials and personnel of the government and private individuals “who have rendered extraordinary service or have made exceptional contributions to the success of an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the President.”
Sandoval’s wife, Maria Anna, is expected to receive the Medal of Valor from the Chief Executive.
On September 10, Sandoval’s group was tasked to retake the multiple-floor commercial complex C&D Centerpoint which served as a fortress for local armed groups who have connection with international terrorist network Islamic State (ISIS).
The building was referred to as “Land Bank” because of the bank that was located in the ground floor.
According to Captain Erwin Arcilla, Sandoval wanted to save his fellow soldier at the ground floor of the building. When he saw Corporal Jayson Mante getting hit with bullets as they were clearing the building, Sandoval asked his troops to cover fire while he rushed to get Mante.
A bullet hit Sandoval’s on the side of his torso while he was pulling Mante to safety. It was followed by another bullet that hit his neck, and a third gunshot—a fatal one—hit his cheek.
As more bullets rained down on the military, Sandoval did not hesitate to crawl on top of Mante to cover him.
“Talagang grabe ‘yung taas ng tingin namin kay sir. Sa heroism na ginawa niya (We have a high respect for him. For the heroism he did),” Arcilla said.
Sandoval vowed that none of his men, under his watch, will die in Marawi. Unfortunately, Sandoval and the rest of his men did not survive the clash, but the late captain attained his promise at the cost of his own life.
A total of 165 military forces were killed during the battle in the war-torn Marawi City. Aside from Sandoval, Duterte also bestowed the Order of Lapu-Lapu to 27 other government security forces who bravely fought the ISIS-inspired Maute group.