CEBU CITY--- "Accurate civilian information" from residents of Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, Bohol led to the discovery of the armed men early Tuesday, Col. Medel Aguilar, civil military operations office head of Central Command (CENTCOM), said was one of the main reasons why government troops foiled the attempt of the armed group to stage a possible conflict there.
"We have prevented whatever their planned attack is. This is a good example of how people should act whenever they are faced with security challenges," Aguilar told reporters on Tuesday's press conference in Cebu City.
In a joint press statement by CENTCOM and the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), they lauded the efforts of the local officials down to the residents of the community, who tipped the security forces based there in Bohol regarding the sightings of armed men.
"On behalf of the combined forces of the AFP and the PNP in the Visayas Region, we want to congratulate our people in Bohol under the able leadership of Governor Edgar Chatto, and all local chief executives down to the municipal and barangay levels, who made a brave stand to defend themselves against the threat of terrorism. The government security forces simply reinforced the vigilance of the Boholanos who organized themselves into a strong force to keep the province safe from any threat group," said the joint PNP-AFP statement.
It also commended the heroism of the fallen soldiers and policeman.
"Their heroism will forever be engraved in the hearts of our people. Today's incident showcases how strong we can be if all stakeholders, the law enforcers, the civilian government and the community, act together," the statement added.
The encounter that erupted between government forces and armed men suspected to be members of the Abu Sayyaf group happened at past 5:30a.m. on Tuesday, April 11.
At least three soldiers and one policeman died in the encounter that lasted for hours.
Senior Insp. Reslyn Abella, spokesperson of PRO-7, said that aside from the one policeman killed in action, another policeman was also wounded in the encounter.
Recovered by the military and police during the clearing operations in the encounter area included high-powered firearms (three M16 and one M4-carbine).Also recovered, were five unidentified bodies believed to be members of the armed group that were killed during the exchange of gunfires.
Tighter security and temporary evacuation for everyone's safety
Col. Aguilar said there were additional deployment of government troops from the police and the military in the town in order "to make sure that the threat will be eliminated".
During the press conference, Aguilar said that there is an inter-agency effort in preventing the re-entry and exit of these armed men. He specifically cited the deployment of the Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force and also counter-terrorist forces in the province to also prevent a possible retaliation.
Police stations in the province were also alerted and checkpoints were also put in place along the major highways and thoroughfares all over Bohol.
Aguilar, on the other hand, was quick to dismiss that the presence of the armed men is in relation to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) sub- meetings scheduled next week in Bohol.
In a radio interview, Inabanga town Mayor Josephine Jumamoy said over 400 individuals from four affected barangays in Napo, Canlinte, Baguhan and Lomboy were evacuated. They were temporarily asked to stay in the different schools that serve as evacuation centers.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas (DSWD-7) has immediately delivered 150 food packs to the affected families and will be sending more in the days to come.
Source: Philippines Information Agency