On the heels of the slaying of six soldiers in Sumisip, Basilan on Sunday, President Aquino said yesterday that the state’s elite forces have been mobilized to “crush” the Abu Sayyaf rebels behind criminality in the region.
The six soldiers had been guarding a multimillion-peso road construction site in Sumisip.
Aside from the attacks on government forces, the Abu Sayyaf militants are still holding more than 10 hostages, after having recently released two German nationals.
Speaking to reporters after the inaugural ceremony of Coca-Cola FEMSA (Fomento Economico Mexicano, S.A.B. de C.V.) Philippines in Canlubang, Calamba City, Laguna, Aquino said: “In Sulu… there are about 200 Abu Sayyaf and a potential 200 sympathizers so you’re talking about 400. Now, we have several battalions… not one, not two, not three – several battalions composed of some of our most elite forces and the regular line infantry battalions who are going to all of these mountain lairs and very heavily wooded jungle and dense areas to precisely deprive them of safe havens.”
Aquino gave his assurance that his administration – in tandem with military and police forces – is proactively dealing with the Abu Sayyaf. He agreed, however, that the only way to ensure long-term results in ending the insurgency is through far-reaching reforms and progress within the community.
“There are communities where they have a lot of relatives who are supportive of them, we must get back these communities and stop them from supporting the Abu Sayyaf,” Aquino said.
The President noted that attacks such as the one on the six soldiers are to be expected, as the infrastructure project nears completion; pointing out that the bandits would try to impede form of development in order for them to continue to recruit members.
“We can really expect that, as the end of the situation that allows the opportunity to recruit and sow terror nears, they will really fight intensely,” Aquino said.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero yesterday to lead a probe into the attack that felled six soldiers in order to determine if people were remiss in their duties.
“If there were lapses, we will find out if there will be people who have to be investigated and would be questioned why it happened,” said Catapang.
Likewise, the leader of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Gov. Mujiv Hataman spoke out against the slaying of the six soldiers, and he urged the military to launch an all-out offensive versus the rebels in order to put a stop to their lawlessness on the island.
Hataman added that the killing of the soldiers in Sumisip will not result in the suspension of construction, and would not affect the completion of the project.