From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 28): Retired general disputes Querubin over test mission controversy
A retired military officer who led the creation of the first Marines
Reconnaissance (Recon) Battalion in 1995 disputed statements by a fellow retired
officer that Marines on test mission are not supposed to engage in battle.
“The mission of Force Recon Battalion is special operations. We do the
difficult work in the Armed Forces. Recon is just one of the aspects of our
mission and capabilities. So when you say they are not supposed to engage with
the enemy is not correct,” retired Major General Natalio Ecarma III told
INQUIRER.net on Tuesday.
The highly decorated retired Marine general, who also underwent specialized
trainings under the Army’s elite units -the Special Forces and Scout Rangers, as
well as US Scout Ranger and US Marines Recon courses – led the formulation of
the Marines Recon training course.
Ecarma was then a junior officer in 1995 when he was tasked to create the
Force Recon Battalion, which included the formulation of the training course for
the special operations unit.
“The doctrine used in our Marine Recon was based on the concept of our
special operations, and the test mission was organized from the Army’s Scout
Rangers which we integrated there,” he said.
He said the Recon is the Marines counterpart of Army’s elite units Special
Forces and Scout Rangers, which demands the “highest standard of soldiery.”
Retired Marine Colonel Ariel Querubin earlier said that Marines on test
mission should not engage in battle, and is only limited to gathering data.
Ecarma is Querubin’s junior at the Philippine Military Academy, where they
both attended. The former is from PMA Class 1981, while the latter is from PMA
But Ecarma said students undergoing specialized courses are sent on a test
mission “in order to confirm whether they learned or not.”
A Marines Recon course usually lasts for about six months, and a test mission
is conducted on the final months. The test mission is part of the training and
the students will not finish the course unless they are engaged in an actual
If you follow the procedures, then there are minimized casualties, Ecarma
He added that he sees no need to review the doctrine of the Marines Recon
training course, but rather the implementation of the procedures must be
“I believe the doctrine is correct, the concept is sound but the problem is
the implementation on the ground,” Ecarma said, but clarified that he was not
referring to the Sulu incident, as the investigation is still ongoing.
The Sulu encounter over the weekend left six soldiers dead, including a
junior officer Second Lieutenant Alfredo Lorin VI, in a clash with the Abu
Sayyaf group. The other fatalities were Privates First Class and a Sergeant.
They were part of the Force Recon Class 18 as stated on a report by the Western
The soldiers were tasked to rescue kidnap victim Casilda Villarasa, wife of
Sergeant Faustino Villarasa.
“Karamihan sa Recon dapat bata..Sa hirap ng mission, tsaka yung tinatawag ng
operational tempo. Ang kelangan dyan malalakas..matitigas,” Ecarma said when
asked whether he found the fatalities too young to die in battle.
(Recon is composed mostly of young Marines because of its arduous mission and
operational tempo. Strong and tough men are needed here.)
“Age is not actually an advantage when physical fitness is concerned…..young
fighters constitute Recon,” he said.
Ecarma said that Marine operations are usually successful, but they only get
public exposure when they incur casualties.
“The Recon has many successful missions that are not known to public, but
when we get casualties that’s when we get exposure,” he said.
He cited the military’s victory over Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani
as one of its high-profile successes.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also defended the deployment of
Marines’ Recon students in Sulu on a test mission, saying it was part of their
test in the special operations course.
“Before a student graduates from the course, they undergo a test mission to
confirm if they have learned anything or not. It is during an encounter when it
is verified if they learned something. Sometimes we incur casualty, sometimes we
emerge as very victorious without any casualty,” he told in a radio interview.
She was laid to rest according to Islamic rites in her hometown in the Municipality of Ganassi, Lanao del Sur last Saturday, May 25.
Dr. Marohombsar was a distinguished alumnus of the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She was the first among the very few Muslim Moro women then who studied at the PWU in the early 50s. She pursued her post-graduate studies at the Ateneo de Manila, the University of Hawaii and Harvard University in the US.
She was also a pioneering faculty member of the Mindanao State University (MSU) when the latter was established in 1962.
Many of the well-known Moro professionals, who have succeeded in their respective fields of endeavor, including politics, were her students at one time or another.
She was an icon to many Muslims, both women and men, in the Lanao provinces who are in the field of education.
She became President of the MSU in 1992 up to about 1997 and carried the distinction of being the first Muslim woman to be ever appointed by government to that position up till now.
Meanwhile, Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, who knew late educator-negotiator because she was part of the government peace panel, sent condolence to the family and relatives for her passing away.
“I know her very well and she is a very amiable personality and so easy to9 deal with her,” Iqbal told Luwaran in an interview.
“We missed another good person and may Allah bless her soul,” Iqbal added.
From 1998 to 2003, she became a member of the Peace Negotiating Panel of the Philippine government negotiating with the MILF.
Just before the presidential elections of 2004, Dr. Marohombsar, together with another female member of the panel, resigned from the GPH Peace Panel after reportedly being disillusioned with the “insincere” way the then regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was handling the negotiations with the MILF.
It is likewise worth mentioning that Dr. Marohombsar is the maternal aunt (younger sister of his late mother) of Robert Maulana M. Alonto, a senior member of the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel and concurrently a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). He and Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga (also a member of the MILF Peace Panel) were once her students during their university years.
Despite having served as negotiator of the government for a period of time, the MILF has high regards for Dr. Marohombsar, whose many relatives are also active members of the MILF and the MNLF.