Soldiers’ deaths in Basilan a failure of governance by gov’t?, asks group
MANILA — The head of an organization for the wives and girlfriends of military personnel blamed the Aquino administration for the continued loss of lives of government soldiers in conflict areas in Mindanao.
“Ang laki ng bilang ng nawawala halos every year. Failure ba tayo sa pamamalakad ng gobyerno? O sadyang walang takot na ang mga rebelde o terorista sa gobyerno (We are losing a large number of soldiers every year. Is this a failure of governance? Or are rebels and terrorists getting bolder and unafraid of the government)?” asked Anne Turla, 33, leader and founder of the Soldiers’ Wives and Girlfriends (SWAG) Philippines.
SWAG is composed of 1,200 wives, girlfriends and women dependents of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Turla cited several major operations “bungled” by government forces in Basilan. “[In] 2007, Al-Barka: 23 Marine troopers dead. [In] 2011, Al-Barka: 19 Army [soldiers] dead. In 2016, Tipo-Tipo: 23 Army [soldiers] dead [as of latest count on Sunday],” Turla said.
She also cited the deaths of 44 members of the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province in January 2015.
She said President Aquino had promised “all out justice” for those who died in the Al Barka clash in 2011.
“But after almost five years, all we had is news that [the government is] giving the [Moro Islamic Liberation Front privileges] like the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law). This is unfair to our soldiers; too unfair to the working class and taxpayers,” she said.
Mr. Aquino had lobbied for the passage of BBL, but was unable to muster enough support in Congress.
Turla said soldiers killed in Basilan “paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.”
“There are too many casualties and this happened on Valor Day (Araw ng Kagitingan). We are praying for the souls of our brave soldiers and [our support goes to] their bereaved families,” she said.
She said SWAG would contact the families of the slain soldiers to condole with and help them cope with the tragedy.
“As of the moment, we offer prayers and moral support. The impact of this tragic event [on their families] will be felt after the burial [of the slain soldiers],” Turla said. SFM
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