I am now beginning to understand why it is really very hard for the government forces to fight the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan and Jolo as can be gleaned from their failure to neutralize the small terrorist group in Bohol, a terrain which the ASG is not even familiar with.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me vehemently stress that I am one with countless Filipinos who abhor terrorism, and I belong to the millions whose heart broke over the death of our soldiers and policemen. It was a supreme sacrifice for love of country.
Let me, therefore, extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the families, friends and relatives of the three members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and one Philippine National Police (PNP) officer who offered their lives in the firefight with the lawless elements in Napo, Inabanga, Bohol last week.
I appreciate the joint efforts of the AFP and PNP in running after the ASG. However, there are observations I cannot turn a blind eye to. Otherwise, I would be doing a disservice to my readers or my country for not pointing out what need to be pointed out. I am not a war expert, but I believe in common sense. That is why I would appreciate it if the AFP and PNP would respond to my observations.
This is to call the attention of the respective officers of the AFP and PNP in relation to their knowledge and capabilities in the battlefields.
The indisputable fact is that four lives from the government forces were offered during the encounter against the ASG. Only three of the ASG members were killed. There were two civilian casualties. By simple arithmetic, the government lost more lives than the enemies.
Why did it happen? How did the AFP and PNP cordon the place? Why were there many ASG members who were able to escape than those killed? Is it not a fact that the ASG members arrived in Brgy. Napo, Inabanga, Bohol using their three kumpits or double engine boats just last Palm Sunday as per account of the civilian witnesses? Is it not a fact that only Joselito Milloria is a native of Bohol who served as the terrorists’ guide?
So in terms of familiarity of the terrain, it can be said that only Milloria is well acquainted with the place while his cohorts are not.
The additional questions are: Is it not a fact that the government joint forces of AFP and PNP outnumbered the enemies? Is it not a fact that the AFP used its air assets and dropped 10 bombs on the battlefields? Is it not a fact that the ASG was composed only of 11 members who boarded the three kumpits from Jolo to Inabanga, Bohol? So in terms of strength in numbers and power of armaments being used, it can be said that the government forces are superior over their enemies.
It boggles the mind that in the battle that started at 5 a.m. and ended very late in the afternoon of the same day or on April 11, 2017, it seems that government security forces are in the losing end in terms of the number of deaths. Eight ASG members escaped and only three were killed! They escaped and evaded the cordon of the PNP and AFP with its air force and navy helping to supposedly trap the enemies. In other words, the whole world was upon the ASG!
I hope Gen. Noli Taliño, Police Regional Office in Central Visayas chief, who happened to be one of the ground commanders when the 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) were killed like sitting ducks in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in 2015 could make a comparison of what happened in the recent incident in Inabanga, Bohol.
I think there are lessons they can get from the two incidents that could help improve government security forces.
In the SAF 44 tragic incident, only PO3 Robert Lalan was able to escape from the cordon of the MILF forces in a battle that started at 5 a.m. until late in the afternoon of January 25, 2015. It is understandable because government forces were outnumbered and were unfamiliar with the place in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
Conversely speaking, if the government forces were in a better position, the enemies would all the more be running away scared. In other words, the majority, if not all, of ASG members in Bohol would have been pulverized.
The Inabanga, Bohol, incident is a totally different situation. With the government forces’ superiority in numbers, armaments and presumed familiarity with the place being there ahead of the ASG, logic dictates that the government cannot be in the losing end. So which terrain can we win against the Abu Sayyaf?
Of the three ASG fatalities, was there one who died from the “air strikes”? Was the bomb dropping really necessary? Was it not just wasting government resources?
I hope that the leadership of both AFP and PNP will set aside their pride and revisit their combat knowledge and trainings. After all, humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.
Before I close this article, please allow me once again to do a snappy salute to our fallen heroes. They were without fault, for good soldiers or officers follow orders. Their deaths will never be in vain.