Manila Times, Thursday, April 22,2010
By: James Konstantin Galvez and Al Jacinto
The Palace, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), on Wednesday assured that the situation in Basilan is now under control following intensified military campaign against the perpetrators of the recent bombing attack that killed 12 people.
“Security and safety situation in Basilan has improved and is now going back to normal. We have already isolated the cities of Lamitan and Isabela from the reported perpetrators of the bombing last Tuesday,” Philippine Marines Director for Naval Affairs Lt. Col. Edgar Arevalo said in a press conference in Malacañang.
“The members of this terrorist group is now limited in the outskirts of Lamitan City. And we are now continuing with the intensified combat operations as ordered by AFP Chief of Staff Delfin Banguit to ensure that the ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group] will not harm the peaceful, stable, and safe conduct of the May 10 elections,” Arevalo added.
Arevalo also said that additional fresh troops from Manila are now being deployed in Basilan to help in the augmentation and peacekeeping campaign in the province.
He also said that elite members of the Armed Forces and the Marines were deployed to the province to pursue the fleeing members of the Abu Sayyaf.
For his part, Gen. Edgardo Acuña of the national-police deputy chief for operations and concurrent commander of national task force HOPE (Prayer for an Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections) said that plans to secure the safe conduct of the elections have already been finalized.
Acuña said that they will employ three-step security plan on the island of Basilan and nearby provinces, which include the orientation of personnel about their responsibilities during election day, additional troops to areas considered as hot spots, and employment of civilian action force that would monitor police personnel specially those assigned to secure election paraphernalia.
“With these contingency measures, we are ready for any unexpected events,” he said.
Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said that the Anti-Terrorism Council is continuously monitoring the situation in Basilan, saying that the President Gloria Arroyo is “dead serious” that there will be no failure of elections.
Basilan has been tagged as an election hot spot because of the presence of private armed groups and history of election-related violence.
Besides Basilan, additional police officers and soldiers have been deployed to nine provinces that are considered as “priority areas” including La Union, Nueva Ecija and Masbate in Luzon; Samar and Iloilo in Visayas; and Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Sulu and Maguindanao.
Meanwhile, one of two captured Abu Sayyaf militants tagged as among those behind twin bombings in Basilan had died from his wounds at a local military hospital, officials said Wednesday.
Officials said Umbar, who was wounded in a firefight with troops last week, died late Tuesday in hospital at the military’s Western Mindanao Command headquarters. “An Abu Sayyaf member captured by government troops after the attack in Isabela City in Basilan died of cardio respiratory arrest secondary to sepsis due to his infected wounds,” said First Lt. Steffani Cacho, a regional military spokesman.
She said the body of the militant was handed over to an imam and buried in a coastal village called Caragasan, west of Zamboanga City.
Cacho said another militant, Ajib Hainal, who was also wounded in the fighting and captured by the military in Basilan province, would soon be handed over to the police.
“Hainal is ready for release to the police,” she said.