Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. today called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to disclose the details of the encounter in Basilan with Abu Sayyaf forces which led to the killing of at least 18 soldiers and wounding of more than 50 others Saturday.
Marcos said the entire nation and most especially the families of the slain soldiers deserve full transparency in the military operation against the international terrorist group.
“We need a full picture of the encounter. We should not hide these details. The Filipino people and most especially the families of the soldiers killed and wounded deserve to know the whole truth,” he said.
Marcos expressed concern about the silence of the AFP on the operation. Reports have shown that after the Western Mindanao Command’s report of 22 soldiers injured early Saturday, no official statement has been released about the clashes.
“Here were go again. We are again in the dark of what happened,” he said noting of the country’s experience with the ill-fated Mamasapano operation which led to the killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force. It took several weeks before police officials made a public pronouncement on who ordered the operation.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri were said to have flown to Zamboanga City and Basilan province early Sunday to meet with ground commanders.
Marcos added the AFP has to make public who led the operation and the exact purpose of the operation in an area controlled by the armed group. “Who was in charge of the operation? What was the exact objective of the operation? We need answers because this is something that strikes a chord with every Filipino because of the Mamasapano incident a year ago,” he said.
According to reports, the 10-hour firefight happened Saturday, a day after Italian hostage, former missionary Rolando del Torchio, was released by Abu Sayyaf.
AFP sources were quoted as saying that the government forces were deployed to hunt down Abu Sayyaf commander Isnilon Hapilon who has been involved in several terrorist attacks.
Local media reports also indicated that about 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters were involved in the clash with government troops. Four soldiers had reportedly been decapitated.