MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte knows his order to destroy the Abu Sayyaf will elicit a violent response from the terrorist group.
“Bantay kayo kasi (Be on guard because) we are hitting them hard. I expect retribution from them,” Duterte said during a speech in front of a religious group on Wednesday night, August 31, in Davao City.
But the Duterte government will be ready for any retaliation from the Abu Sayyaf, he said.
“What you can dish out, I can do better 10 times. May army ako, may eroplano (I have an army, I have planes),” warned the President.
Upon his orders, 5 battalions composed of 2,500 soldiers are being sent to Jolo, Sulu, the bailiwick of the terror group. The additional troops bring the total number of soldiers in Jolo to 7,000, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
This is the biggest number of troops amassed by the government to fight the Abu Sayyaf.
The military has led a series of operations against the group which have supposedly killed at least 14 ASG members.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on August 29 that he too is not discounting the possibility of bolder attacks by the bandit group.
“We know that they might create diversionary tactics dito here in Manila, Cebu Davao. That’s what the President is scared of,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
In recent days, he has also been amping up his rhetoric against the Abu Sayyaf.
This comes days after 15 soldiers were killed in an encounter with the terrorist group in Sulu. Duterte flew to Zamboanga City to attend their wake. – Rappler.com