by Elena L. Aben
President Duterte yesterday conferred the Wounded Medal Award on eight soldiers wounded in an encounter with the militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in ceremonies held in Sulu.
Duterte also gave each of the wounded troops P100,000 cash and Glock pistol.
Marine Col. Edgard A. Arevalo, chief, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office, said the Commander-in-Chief was joined by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, and Chief Surgeon Brig. Gen. Mar Mejia in visiting the wounded troops at Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital.
The troops from the Army 21st Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Presco Lobos, were on field military operations when they clashed with the ASG at around 12:44 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul town.
The encounter reportedly left two ASG gunmen dead and several others wounded.
Since he assumed the presidency, Duterte has personally visited government forces who were either killed or wounded in line of duty.
He has also ordered the military to “search and destroy” the ASG.
In his speech in Cotabato City last Saturday, the President called on the militant group to stop terrorizing the people of Mindanao as he pursue the government’s effort to bring lasting peace in the region.
“Nakausap ko ang komunista, pumayag. By the grace of Allah, baka maka-suwerte ako ng peace agreements sa MI(LF) pati MN(LF). Ang problema ko na lang iyong mga hardcore, but they must understand, pati iyong Abu Sayyaf, that wala talaga tayong makuha kung mag sige patayan. Ako na iyong nakikiusap sa inyo (I already talked to the communist and they agreed. By the grace of Allah, I might be lucky to strike a peace deal with the MILF and the MNLF. My only problem now is the hardcore, but they must understand, including the Abu Sayyaf, that we get nothing from killing each other. I now personally appeal to you). I make the guarantee… we will treat you equally,” he said.
“I will see to it na iyong Moro o Kristiyanos o Igorot (that the Muslims and Christians) will be treated alike sa panahon ko (under my watch). Ayaw ko ng patayan kasi wala talagang mangyari, kasi ang nahiharapan iyong mga babae pati bata… Bigyan ninyo ako ng kaunting panahon (I’m against killings as it will accomplish nothing and will only let the women and children suffer). I will improve the Moro land, Mindanao,” he added.
The President added that if the ASG would not stop their violent activities, he would give them one-way ticket to Syria.
“Punta na lang kayo sa ISIS, kukunan ko kayo ng ticket (Go to the ISIS, I will provide the ticket),” he said. (With a report from Yas D. Ocampo)