TWELVE government troops were decorated on Tuesday for gallantry in actions that has so far resulted in the death of at least 32 Abu Sayyaf extremists in Sulu over the past few days.
Two of the 12 soldiers received Gold Cross Medals and another two got Silver Cross Medals. The remaining eight were awarded with Military Merit Medals.
Lt. Col. Ramon Flores, commander of the 32nd Infantry Battalion and one of the awardees, said the two-hour battle they experienced on Friday against the Abu Sayyaf was so intense.
Flores led his men in the lair of the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul town, where they killed at least 10 Abu Sayyaf members.
“The Abu Sayyaf was hiding in an advantageous point. We were running after them in a hill. We continued pursuing them until they fled,” he told the Philippine News Agency. Flores said the Abu Sayyaf also used high-powered firearms.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año led the awarding of medals for the 12 soldiers for their heroism.
“We congratulate our awardees. We know the sacrifices you have made to protect our country and to suppress these lawless elements who are trying to dominate this island,” Lorenzana told the troops inside Camp Gen. Teodolfo Bautista.
“We know how hard it is to fight here in Sulu because you’re fighting a very experienced and determined enemy,” Lorenzana added. “I congratulate you all for the job well done.”
At least 32 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed by government forces following the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to finish the Abu Sayyaf in six months, from Jan. 1 to June 30 this year.
Lorenzana assured the troops of the backing of President Duterte in the ongoing “focused military operations.”
“We are closely monitoring your day-to-day activities here,” he told the troops.
“We in the AFP and the [Philippine National Police] will sustain our operations against the Abu Sayyaf, and we will try to finish them within six months from Jan. 1 to June 30,” he said.
On Friday, President Duterte gave medals to 18 wounded troops admitted at the General Bautista Station Hospital.
Lorenzana and Año arrived here Tuesday to assess the ongoing focused military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
They were accompanied by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Army Chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, Air Force Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina, Naval Flag Officer-in-Command Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado and other top government officials.