President Rodrigo Duterte had a private meeting with the families of soldiers killed in Sulu during the twin bombings of Jolo on January 27 and in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf rebels in Patikul on February 2.
Duterte met with the kin of the six soldiers who lost their lives protecting the people of Sulu to offer his sympathies and honor their heroism. He also assured them of assistance.
“The President condoled with the bereaved families and honored the fallen soldiers for their heroism by awarding them the Order of Lapu Lapu (rank of Kalasag),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
The private meeting took place at the Matina Enclaves, Davao City on Monday. Also present was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., Philippine National Police Director Oscar Albayalde, Philippine Army Commander Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto and former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
According to Panelo, the President assured the grieving families that the government will extend them assistance for housing, livelihood, employment and education, among others.
Two soldiers died during the January 27 twin bomb attacks at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu. The attack, which claimed the lives of 22 people in total and injured 90 others, came just days after the successful ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). A majority of voters in the ARMM region voted yes to BOL, though most in Sulu voted against the same.
President Duterte on January 29 ordered troops to pursue Abu Sayyaf bandits, the most likely perpetrators of the bombing.
“We are sure of that. Nobody can perpetuate that kind of terrorism thereabout (in the area). I have no doubt,” Duterte said in a chance interview following the new site groundbreaking of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Malabon City.
“That is what the military told me and that is what the police relayed to me and I am guided by what the government workers would tell me,” he added.
Military troops encountered Abu Sayaff bandits on February 2. The resulting firefight left eight dead, including three rebels. 33 were wounded in the encounter.