MALACANANG yeaterday vowed to crush the state’s enemies and condemned the attack of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Patikul, Sulu on government troops which led to the death of 11 soldiers and the wounding of 14 others.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest incident in Patikul, Sulu, where members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) believed to be under ASG leader Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan attacked government troops resulting in a firefight, which left 11 soldiers killed and 14 wounded," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
"This is our government troops' second encounter with the same terrorist group; the first one, on April 16, wounded three soldiers," Roque added.
The encounter occurred on Friday in the hinterlands of Bgy. Danag.
Soldiers from the 21st Infantry Battalion clashed with around 40 Abu Sayyaf members led by Radullan Sahiron and Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan in an hour-long gunfight.
The Palace condoled with the relatives of the slain soldiers.
"The Office of the President expresses its sincerest condolences to the bereaved families left behind by our brave soldiers who fought hard and paid the ultimate sacrifice to secure our community. We honor and pray for the fallen," Roque added.
The encounter happened amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The enemies of the State choose no date and occasion. They strike even during this time of great pandemic," Roque said.
“But let this serve as a warning to all: Our authorities remain ready and prepared to crush the enemies of the government and quell any armed attack amid the existing state of calamity and public health emergency," he added.
The Philippine Army hailed the 11 soldiers who died as heroes, saying they "gallantly fought to the last breath."
Flags in all military camps were flown at half-mast in honor of the soldiers.