ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday personally extended his condolences to the families of the soldiers who perished in an encounter in Basilan last weekend, assuring them that an investigation will be conducted.
Eighteen soldiers died in the clash with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and 53 others sustained injuries, the military has said.
During his meeting with the families of the deceased soldiers at the Edwin Andrews Air Base, the President said a full investigation will be launched once the ongoing military operations in Basilan are completed.
A military board of inquiry will be organized to find out what happened, he said, vowing to hold accountable those who have committed negligence that resulted in the huge casualty on the side of the government.
The President explained that the military will however have to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf Group first, so as not to lose momentum in the ongoing military offensive against the Islamic militant group.
He also asked the families about their needs, especially since many of them have lost their breadwinners.
Some of the families asked about the education of young children left behind by the soldiers and how their widows could get support from the government. Others wanted to know how other family members could join the military.
President Aquino said the government will give these families the assistance they deserve.
Major General Gerardo Barrientos, Jr. of the 1st Infantry Division said the families’ benefits include Php 250,000 from the Office of the President, about Php 180,000 in remuneration cash, Php 50,000 from the Mutual Benefit Association’s License, and Php 100,000 from the Philippine Army Finance Center Producers Integrated Cooperative.
“‘Yung burial expenses na Php 80,000, this is over and above ng remuneration na ibinibigay ng ating organization,” he said, adding that there will also be contributions from the division itself and from the headquarters, including a scholarship program from the government.
“Sa kasalukuyan, iyong members ng ating Presidential Management Staff ay nagko-conduct ng pakikipagpulong doon sa ating mga naulila para malaman kung ano talaga ang kanilang problema. Meron ding mga scholarship programs na inilaan ang ating gobyerno kasama itong program ng ating Philippine Army,” Barrientos said.