SAF medic refused to leave wounded men, died with troops

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12:25 AM January 31st, 2015

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By: Inquirer, January 31st, 2015 12:25 AM

He could have chosen to save himself amid the heavy gunfire during an encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

But PO1 Windell Candano, 32, a medic of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF), chose to stay and treat the wounded until he was fatally shot.

His heroism was relayed by the survivors to his widow, Michelle Candano, 31, a resident of barangay Mambaling in Cebu City.

Michelle, 31, said Windell’s comrades at the PNP-SAF called her up to express their gratitude to her husband.

She said that based on the survivors’ accounts, Windell didn’t attempt to escape or hide but instead dragged the wounded policemen away from the enemies and took time to treat them.

One of the survivors told Michelle that Windell was fatally shot while treating a wounded police officer.

“He could have walked away and saved himself but he chose to save others. I know he knew he could end up dead but he stood firm with his responsibilities and his colleagues who were like brothers to him,” said Michelle.

Although the family’s pain was somehow eased by the survivors’ tale of his heroism, Michelle lamented that her husband was not just killed but was robbed of his personal belongings.

She recalled that while they were celebrating the ninth birthday of their son, Gabriel, on Saturday, Windell called her up to inform her that he would be involved in a dangerous police operation.

Windell confided to his wife that they were going to a place where it would be difficult to get out alive.

Michelle was not able to sleep, worried about her husband’s circumstances. Usually, he would call after every operation to allay her fears.

But this time, no calls were forthcoming.

Michelle decided to call her husband on Sunday but someone else picked up the phone.

She could not understand the man at the other of the  line since he seemed to be speaking in an unfamiliar dialect “something spoken in Mindanao.”

“When I asked about my husband, the person on the other line hung up on me,” said Michelle.

She then received a text message from her husband’s phone that read the cellular phone belonged to someone else by then because her husband was already dead.

At first, Michelle thought it was a prank text until Windell’s colleague called her up to tell her that he was among the 44 PNP-SAF members killed in the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

That was when she realized that after being killed, Windell was divested of his personal effects.

“I just can’t imagine how the same person who killed my husband could take his personal belongings. These belongings should be returned to us,” said Michelle.

Windell was a graduate of electrical engineering but took an exam to become a policeman. He later became part of the PNP Special Action Force and was assigned to the medical team. He recently passed the examination and was due for promotion to Police Officer 2.

Windell’s parents, Eusebio and Marciana Candano urged the government to conduct a thorough investigation on the bloody encounter.

“It seemed that it was a very bad mission, something that should not have been given the go-signal. It was like they became  bait and they were trapped, helpless and brutally killed,” said Eusebio.

Michelle and Eusebio, together with three other family members, flew to Manila on Wednesday night to claim the remains of Windell and attend yesterday’s necrological service at Camp Bagong Diwa where President Aquino delivered a eulogy.

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