Faustino fetes 17 soldiers wounded in Basilan firefight

Seventeen soldiers who got injured during a recent firefight between the military and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan were awarded with medals by Department of National Defense (DND) Officer in Charge (OIC) Jose Faustino Jr.

Department of National Defense (DND) OIC Jose Faustino Jr. pins a medal to a wounded soldier during his visit to Zamboanga City on Nov. 11, 2022. The soldier is one of the 17 military personnel who got injured during a recent firefight between the Joint Task Force Basilan and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan from Nov. 8 to 10, 2022. (Photo by Western Mindanao Command)

The Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said Sunday, Nov. 13, that Faustino visited and recognized the wounded soldiers, including a junior officer, in Zamboanga City last Friday.

The soldiers – who are members of the 64th Infantry Battalion, 18th Infantry Battalion, and 12th Division Reconnaissance Company under the Joint Task Force Basilan – were given the Wounded Personnel Medal as they recuperate from their wounds.

They were also given cash assistance by the Philippine Army (PA), repredented by Army vice commander Maj. Gen. Adonis Bajao, and representatives from the Mutual Benefit Association Inc. (MBAI) and Armed Forces and Police Savings and Loans Association, Inc. (AFPSLAI).

Faustino also commiserated with the bereaved families of the three fallen soldiers during the conflict.

In a conference with top officials of WestMincom at Camp Navarro in Calaria, Zamboanga City, Faustino stressed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must get the right balance in supporting the peace agreement with former enemies of the State while keeping the integrity of the organization.

“We should remain a formidable force capable of sustaining stability in our area of operation,” said Faustino, a former AFP chief.

Members of the JTF Basilan and MILF-Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) engaged in a firefight from Nov. 8 to 10 in Brgy. Ulitan, Ungkaya Pukan Basilan, a surprising hostility from the two forces considering that the latter had already forged a peace agreement with the national government in 2014.

The firefight erupted when one of the members of JTF Basilan was hit by a sniper from the MILF-BIAF during the coordination visit of a military commander in Brgy. Ulitan. The military, on the other hand, alleged that the MILF was coddling lawless elements believed to be involved in the recent attacks in the province.

Eventually, a truce was reached when representatives from the peace panel of the national government and MILF intervened in the fighting.