MANILA, Philippines–President Benigno Aquino III has “full confidence” on the ability of the Armed Forces to suppress any number of uprisings anywhere in the country, his spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said on Monday.
“There is no problem in so far as the leadership of the Chief of Staff General Manny Bautista. The President has full confidence in him. We have seen the response of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They were prepared to face the situation in Zamboanga City and now they are ready to respond to this firefight with the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) which has already ceased,” said Lacierda in a briefing.
“We have resources capable of handling both Zamboanga and Midsayap.”
Based on a report by military spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Lacierda said a contingent of BIFF men– leader and number unknown– clashed with one Army platoon at 8:35 a.m. Monday in Sitio Mirasol, Barangay (village) Polomugen, Midsayap, Cotabato while the latter were conducting combat and clearing operations. The encounter was hot on the heels of a BIFF skirmish in Barangay Rangaban 3 in the same town.
Lacierda said that as of 1 p.m. Monday, the military reported one dead and one injured among its troops while it has successfully negotiated, with the help of the local barangay chair, for the release of a teacher who was one of four hostages taken by the BIFF.
Lacierda said that he has no information on whether the North Cotabato skirmish was connected to the siege in Zamboanga City.
He said the military has so far responded positively on what he called as “actionable intelligence” on the ground such as advanced information of a mass gathering of armed MILF troops in Zamboanga City which was partially spoiled by a firefight at sea to disperse the rebel forces and prevent them from going to their “prepositioned areas.”