The government has turned down calls for an investigation of a clash with terrorist that left 18 soldiers dead last Saturday in Basilan.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Tuesday said a military inquiry will not be appropriate at this time because operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group are ongoing.
“We understand the grief and pain of the widows and bereaved families of our brave soldiers who fought courageously and died in line of duty. However, it is inappropriate, in the meantime, to ‘probe’ the encounter on Saturday, as there are still continuing and ongoing operations,” Coloma told the media in a text message.
“The AFP’s [Armed Forces of the Philippines] focus is on neutralizing and disabling these lawless elements,” he said.
Coloma issued the statement after families of the 18 slain soldiers sought justice and demanded a military probe of the carnage.
Military authorities declined to discuss with reporters details of the 10-hour encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The AFP earlier confirmed that Moroccan bomb expert Mohammad Khattab and Ubaida, son of Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, were among those who were killed in the Basilan gunbattle.
The clash also left at least five terrorists dead.
Meanwhile, 56 soldiers and 20 Abu Sayyaf members were wounded.
The soldiers were sent to capture the elder Hapilon at Sitio Bayoko in Barangay Baguindan when they were ambushed by the terrorists.