Women in uniform leading Marawi peace efforts

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MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Philippines – Clad in white hijabs, more than a hundred female officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrived at the Laguindingan Airport here on Tuesday, August 30, as part of the government’s rehabilitation effort in the war-stricken Marawi.

Composed of 62 members from the Philippine Army and 40 from the PNP, the group will be named “Joint AFP-PNP Civil Relation Teams.”

The uniformed soldiers and policewomen who are a mix of Christians and Muslims, arrived on board the C130 wore a head covering worn by Muslim women.

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The troops come from different units across the country and have undergone a two-week training to assist and manage the evacuees by doing the psycho-social intervention as part of the rehabilitation in Marawi City.

Western Mindanao Comand’s Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the AFP and the PNP came up with the concept to easily determine the needs of the displaced people especially the vulnerable ones like children, women and the elderly.

The women officers of the AFP and PNP are instrumental because male soldiers are prohibited to touch women, said Galvez, referring to an Islamic tradition.

Police Inspector Jecille Cabusas Ibaṅez, a native of Bohol, said she expects to experience difficulty in dealing with the people affected by conflict in her new assignment.

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She said most of the people see them as the enemies and the reason why Marawi was reduced to rubble.

“But we will try our best to make them understand that the government is ready to help them whatever happens,” said Ibañez, who was assigned in Maguindanao for four years before her deployment in Marawi City.

Lt. Ginalyn Peña, a native of Pulacan, Zamboanga del Sur, said she is willing to help the people in Marawi City because it is an opportunity, especially for a woman soldier like her.

“Helping them is an opportunity to show what women can do in the service,” Peña said.

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