JOLO, SULU—President Rodrigo Duterte today (Friday) awarded the Wounded Personnel Medallion (WPM) to 28 soldiers of the 41st Infantry Battalion (41st IB) who were wounded-in-action (WIA) after a three-hour crossfire with members of rebel group, Abu Sayyaf.
At Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital, where two officers and 26 enlisted personnel are currently admitted, Duterte personally pinned the WPM, commending the men’s bravery in service of the country.
The soldiers also received cash assistance, a firearm and a mobile phone for their personal use.
“I am impressed by your performance here. Haping-happy ako,” Duterte told members of the 41st IB during a speech at the Camp Teodulfo Bautista covered court, where he was presented with 62 recovered firearms.
He also promised the construction of housing projects for members of the military and the distribution of Gloc caliber 45 model 30 guns to each soldier to ensure their safety outside of camps. This he promised to deliver by the end of the year.
“Lahat ng maitulong ko sa inyo, ibibigay ko. Yung housing na inagaw ng mga mahirap lang rin, hayaan na ninyo ‘yan. Gawaan ko kayo ng bago at yung mas maganda,” Duterte said.
Duterte also said that his administration is in talks with Nur Misuari, leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help in the pursuit of peace in the country.
“Nur Misuari is talking to me sabi nya konting panahon lang kasi ina-assemble n’ya yung mga tauhan n’ya dito,” Duterte said. “Wala na sana tayong problema, except yung droga pati yung terorismo.”
But while he extends a hand of peaceful cooperation with other rebel groups, Duterte reiterates his tough stand against Abu Sayyaf and terrorism.
“Dito [terrorism] walang atrasan ‘to, pati sa droga. Masisira ang bayan natin dito. Wala tayong makukuha sa kanila [Abu Sayyaf] na ano,” he said. “They would not honor kahit anong klaseng usapan. Gusto lang nila patay, patay, patay, patay. Yun lang ang alam nila. Eh ‘di ubusin natin sila eh.”
On the other hand, Duterte said he has invited CPP-NPA-NDF founder, Joma Sison, to return to the Philippines to full medical treatment and assistance, following the revolutionary group’s call to resume peace talks with the government.
“Ngayon sila ang nakikiusap, alam n’yo bakit? Sison is sick, very sick,” he said. “I offered him, sabi ko, umuwi ka ako mag bayad ng hospital mo. Walang problema sa amin. Pilipino rin tayo pero pagpatuloy natin yung usapan. We have to have peace.”
“Alam ko mabigat sa loob ninyo, kasama ninyo namatay,” Duterte told the 41st IB soldiers. “But you know, we cannot fight another 50 years.”