MSgt. Francisco Camacho finally honored: Medal of Valor awardee gets bust after 60 years
posted 23-Aug-2015  ·  
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Nearly six decades after he was killed in an operation against a notorious Hukbalahap leader in Laguna province, Catanduanes’ first hero, Master Seargeant Francisco Molina Camacho, finally had his concrete bust unveiled at the police headquarters named after him.

The Medal of Valor awardee’s heirs, led by one of his three sons, showed up at the blessing of the bust installed in front of the flagpole at Camp Francisco Camacho last Friday, Aug. 14, in simple rites organized by the Catanduanes Provincial Police Office headed by Senior Superintendent Adelio Benjamin Castillo on the occasion of the 114th Police Service Anniversary. Also present were Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, Governor Araceli Wong, provincial board members, municipal mayors, and policemen.

Recounting his father’s brief life, Fernando Camacho said the independent, self-reliant and quick-acting Francisco was born on Oct. 7,1924 to Pio Camacho and Aurelia Molina of Virac, most probably in barangay Cabihian.

Adventurous, talented and with great ambition, the young Camacho left the island in search of fortune and landed with the Philippine Army, becoming a member of the First Scout Ranger Regiment. He married Expectacion Vargas Sacris at Loreto Church in Sampaloc Manila, with the union producing three sons: Francisco Jr., Federico and Fernando.

Known for his independence, self-reliance and quick action, MSgt. Camacho was handpicked by then unit commander Col. Ernesto Mata to execute “Operation Secret”, an intelligence mission to neutralize notorious Huk commander Eddie Villapando, then sowing terror in Cavite, Laguna and Batangas.

Official accounts described the mission as too dangerous that every step required prudence and precision. Camacho and Cpl. Weene Martillana, posing as civilians, succeeded in befriending Villapando and his bodyguards.

On Dec. 20, 1955, Camacho and Martillana were with Villapando and two bodyguards on aboard an owner-type jeep cruising along the highway between San Pablo City and Calauan town in Laguna when the crucial encounter took place in Maahas right in front of the gate of the now International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

With Camacho at the wheel, he stopped the jeep to check a little "engine trouble." As he alighted from the vehicle, Martillana followed to "assist." As the seconds ticked away, silence descended upon the group until after pre-arranged code signals, "Malamig, ano?" and "Oo nga," the two commandos grabbed two submachine guns from the hood of the jeep and opened fire at the rebels, instantly killing two, Villapando one of them. The other bodyguard was seriously wounded but, before succumbing to the wounds, was able to fire back at Camacho who died later in a hospital.

“It was a great loss for the family (but) a victory for democracy,” Fernando said, with the family suffering great financial loss that her mother was forced to leave them under the care of her aging mother so she could work at the women’s correctional facility in Mandaluyong.

“Kami ay tunay na naging salat sa materyal na pangangailangan ngunit itoý sinuklian ng papuri at karangal na siksik, liglig at umaapaw na hindi matutumbasan ng salapi at material na bagay,” he stressed. Fernando remembers being saluted by Army officers and policemen at Camp Crame on account of his father being a hero.  

Two days after the Laguna clash, President Ramon Magsaysay issued General Order No. 672 awarding the Medal of Valor to MSgt. Camacho (posthumous) and Cpl. Martillana, for distinguishing themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty. At the time, they were the only enlisted personnel to receive the very rare award that is equivalent to the US Congressional Medal of Valor.

He bared that on the spot where Msgt. Camacho fell, a marker was erected to honor his gallantry and patriotism. He, his mom and uncle Demetrio last visited the marker in 1992.

“Nakakalungkot isipin na ang marker ay sinira nang itayo ang South Supermarket, neglecting its reconstruction or restoration,” Fernando said as he thanked the PNP and the provincial leadership for bestowing the honor and recognition on his father. Two  movies were made about the two scout rangers and Villapando’s criminal exploits, he claimed.

“The death of Villapando and any terrorist is not the end of insurgency in our country,” he pointed out, urging everyone to be vigilant because the battle is not only fought with guns and bullets, with the enemy using deceit, money, influence, terrorism and false propaganda.

Qouting US president John F. Kennedy, Fernando stated that the enemy is taking every opportunity to tell Filipinos of their rights and privileges but leading them to neglect their obligations and duties as citizens and defenders of democracy. He asked citizens not to just ask themselves what they can do for their country but to do it now.

“Narinig ko kahapon na si Sen. Poe will fight for justice for the Fallen 44, getting ready for the 2016 elections, I suppose,” the former college instructor stated. “Hindi ba ginagamit lang ang Fallen 44?”

In saluting Viracnon Senior Inspector Max Jim Tria, Fernando expressed sadness that the Mamasapano incident has been clouded by intrigues, politics, misinformation and propaganda under the pretext of justice but aimed at weakening the nation, sowing discontent, strengthening the enemy and initiating an attitude of rebellion against duly constituted authority.

“Never be persuaded by the offer of justice for the death of our gallant men,” he said. “Heroes never seek justice, what they want is for you to be worthy of every drop of blood offered as the price of liberty.”

“We must understand that heroes in the like of MSgt. Francisco Camacho prefer to die, because democracy is worth dying for, because you are worth dying for,” the hero’s son concluded, as he asked those present to carry that message to their homes and families, offices and legislatures.

After the unveiling, Catanduanes police officials led the guests to join the blessing of the firing range and obstacle course before proceeding to the function hall for the awarding ceremonies

The individuals recognized were PBM Lorenzo Templonuevo Jr., Senior Inspector Connie de Leon, SPO4 Francis Tabo, PO1 Marlene Cabangon, SPO1 Josephine Bergonio, PO3 Marwin de Vera, NUP Rowena Rubio, and media personalities Ramil Soliveres, Janelyn Rima, and Donnie Vic Tabirara, and  Rudy Templonuevo of the Department of Justice.

The same celebration also honored the Virac as outstanding LGU, Virac Police Station as outstanding MPS, and the police stations in Viga, Pandan, San Miguel, San Andres and Caramoran for their zeal in the anti-criminality campaign.

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