"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Friday, August 10, 2007

ON THE SITUATION IN SULU AND BASILAN

The ambush and killing yesterday of 20 AFP troops in Sulu by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Brigade raises concern about the situation in the South today.

Within just one month, the nation’s elite troops have twice suffered heavily at the hands of the forces of terror. Last July 10, 24 of our Marines were similarly ambushed and killed in Basilan.

While we offer our sympathies to the families of the fallen, we have to look more closely into why our troops are suffering this high level of casualties. I believe Congress and the public deserve to know more about the real situation in the South so that appropriate adjustments – whether in policy or program or materiel or logistics – can be made, and better support to our troops can be provided.

If I may offer an unsolicited advice, I suggest that the Commander in Chief, joined by leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, call for a top-level briefing on the situation from the AFP high command and commanders in the field.

We have to know how our policy is really faring in Mindanao and Sulu, the adequacy of support for our troops, the quality of intelligence they are receiving, the state of troop morale, and the general climate for peace and order in the affected areas.

It is also fitting to inquire into how military action against the terrorist bands can be matched by socio-economic and civic action to truly alleviate conditions in the South, so that more among our Muslim brothers can be brought within the protection of the State.

This is not a question of assigning blame or pointing fingers. This is just a matter of how we can all pull together for the improvement of the situation in the South.

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