By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang has condemned the clash between government forces and suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Patikul, Sulu that claimed the lives of 11 Army troopers Friday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement after it was reported that 11 uniformed men belonging to the Delta Company of the 21st Infantry Battalion (21 IB), 11th Infantry Division (11 ID) were killed in the encounter.
In a statement Saturday, Roque noted that the clash was the second encounter of the government troops with the terrorist group. The first one was last April 16.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest incident in Patikul, Sulu, where members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) believed to be under ASG leader Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan attacked government troops resulting in a firefight, which left 11 soldiers killed and 13 wounded,” he said.
“The Office of the President expresses its sincerest condolences to the bereaved families left behind by our brave soldiers who fought hard and paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our community. We honor and pray for the fallen,” he added.
The Western Mindanao Command identified the fatalities as First Lieutenant Rogelio Deligero Jr., the company commander; Staff Sergeant Jason Gazzingan; corporals John Manodom, Mark Dixter Montenegro, Rasul Ao-As, and Ernesto Bautista; privates first class Benson Bongguic, Jomel Pagulayan, and Premark Vallecer; Private Jiydon Usman; and Corporal Jomar Ninalga.
Despite the encounter taking place at a time when the country is busy fighting the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Roque said government forces stand ready to fight enemies of the State.
“The enemies of the State choose no date and occasion. They strike even during this time of great pandemic,” he said.
“But let this serve as a warning to all: Our authorities remain ready and prepared to crush the enemies of the government and quell any armed attack amid the existing state of calamity and public health emergency,” he added.
Soldiers are among the troopers called on by President Duterte to enforce the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon until April 30.