THE MILITARY offensive against the Abu Sayyaf terror and kidnap group in Sulu has no deadline but there will be no letup in the campaign.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said the government did not ask for a timeframe on the pursuit of the bandits, as he and other military officials visited soldiers in Sulu late Saturday afternoon to boost their morale.
“[N]o deadline is given on how long the focused military operations will last. We will hunt and pursue them as long as needed,” Visaya said.
The visit, the fifth since the government declared an all-out offensive against the Abu Sayyaf two weeks ago, was also to provide guidance and convey the message of President Rodrigo Duterte in fighting terrorism.
Military operations have resulted in the killing of 32 Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu and 27 in Basilan, or a total of 59.
The AFP lost 18 soldiers, while 28 government troops were wounded in Sulu and Basilan, the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf.
The terror and kidnap group has been widely blamed for the September 2 bombing of the Roxas Night Market in Davao City that killed 14 people and wounded 70 others.
Task Force Sulu
Visaya also said he wanted to personally listen to the needs of operating units.
Three of the previous visits were done after the Abu Sayyaf’s beheading of Patrick James Almodovar, a resident of Jolo, the Sulu provincial capital.
Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, Philippine Army commander; Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz, commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom); the chief surgeon, Brig. Gen. Mariano Mejia and other generals from the AFP headquarters accompanied Visaya in rallying the troops under Joint Task Force Sulu
The task force commander is Brig. Gen. Arnel de la Vega, assisted by the 101st Brigade and 501st Brigade commanders Col. Jesus Manangquil and Col. Jose Faustino.
The AFP chief also inspected a newly constructed hospital.
Visaya congratulated troops for their services even as he encouraged them to be more vigilant in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf.
At the same time, Visaya urged Abu Sayyaf members to pursue peace or suffer the consequences of their terrorist acts, laying down conditions for those who want to surrender.
“Those in the Abu Sayyaf who want to surrender, the AFP will accept them, provided that they release their hostages; if not, our soldiers will hunt them down and pursue them until all of them are neutralized,” Visaya said.
During the visit, de la Vega told Visaya local officials and residents in Sulu have been cooperating with the military.
“The local officials and residents appreciate the effort of our soldiers and are providing much-needed help in fighting the [Abu Sayyaf] and in rescuing the kidnap victims,” he said.