THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expressed alarm over MondayÕs ambush staged by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) amid reports that it was part of a destabilization move instigated by retired general associated with the past administration.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Tuesday said the death toll rose to 23 based on the latest report by Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, commander of the Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade.
“Gen. Pinto told me that there were 23 dead. He did not specify if the 10 BPAT (Barangay Police Action Team) were all unarmed. He did not say also if the BPAT were among those killed,” Zagala further sad.
The casualties were among the 50 passengers of two Tamaraw jeepneys that include 10 members of the Talipao BPAT.
They were travelling to Barangay Lower Talipao in Sulu to mark the end of Ramadan when fired upon by more or less 50 Abu Sayyaf members, led by Idang Susukan and Sibih Pisih.
At least 13 children were also wounded in the incident that happened at about 9:20 a.m. in Sitio Jatih.
“This is very alarming because the last thing we want is that the community will lose confidence in the peace environment especially what weÕre working hard for in Sulu for the past few decades,” Zagala said, adding that the military has stepped up its pursuit operations jto ensure that such incident would not be repeated.
Earlier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th said in a television interview that retired generals associated with the past administration were behind the destabilization move.
But Zagala stressed that “within the armed forces presently, there is no monitored destabilization among active members of the armed forces” nor there is recruitment or any other moves to destabilize the government.
He downplayed the allegation, saying that the retired generals are entitled to their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly.
“Once you are a member of the AFP there are certain liberties that you have to surrender, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble. However, the retired generals have regain that already,” Zagala pointed out. “They are already retireds, we have no control over them.”
“I think they are the liberties that each citizen of our country enjoys. What i can tell you is about the AFP, and there is none,” he further said.
He stressed that as long as the retired generals donÕt instigate the taking of arms, it is not a problem.
A Special Investigation Task Force (SITF) headed by
Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr. was formed to probe the ambush.
Initial reports reaching Camp Crame identified the fatalities as Padzman Hasan, 32; Misyaar Hassan, 14; Maida Hassan, 35; Jirmalyn Hasan, 15; Dadah Palahuddin, 85; Mura Ahadan, 60; Jainab Ajid, 50; Milina Ahadan,15; Miriam Binhur, 19; Nurfaisa Gappar, 14; Dayang Ahadan, 19; Tata Isahac, 40; RIsalyn Isahac, 7; Saik Ajid, 45; Said Palahuddin, 35; Abdul Julhari, 83; Baris Julhari, 19; Abdukahal Ahadan, 19 and Abdulrahim Isahac Omar.
Wounded were Sabur Saik, 21; Rohana Tamrin, 9; Termejie Tamrin, 3; Ahmad Patani, 14; Alnijar Isahac, 18; Ibnoraja Bakkang, 60; Almajir Jumdana, 45; Ahadin Tamrin, 30; Titong Timang, 14: Rosalyn Palahuddin, 27; Maldiya Palahuddin, 24; Radjal Tambuyong, 30; Tambrin Ahadin, 45 and Ruhaidi Saik, 19.