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ASG has lost will to fight

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Eduardo Año expressed belief that the military has already broken the Abu Sayyaf Group’s will to fight as a result of their non-stop military operations in Basilan, Sulu and other parts of Mindanao.

Año gave this assessment prior to his early retirement from the service after he was tapped by President Duterte to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)

“We already saw that the current trend now, for the first time they (Abu Sayyaf) h`ave been surrendering en masse,” Año said.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Año is set to assume the DILG post on June 2 or just five months before his actual retirement on October 26 of this year.

Despite his retirement, Año believes his successor will continue their relentless effort in crushing the bandit group.

“The campaign (against the Abu Sayyaf) is the duty of the military organization. All of that is in the operational orders like “Kapayapaan”. My successor will just continue the current programs and plans,” Año said. Whoever replaces me will no longer have difficulty because it is already written (in paper). The ground commanders in the field know what to do.”

Año also clarified that the timeline given to him by President Duterte to crush the Abu Sayyaf by July 30 of this year, doesn’t necessarily mean total obliteration of the ASG.

“The timeline given to me, it does not mean there will be zero Abu Sayyaf. What it means is strategic victory wherein whatever they do they are already defeated,” Año said. “And with all the positive developments and successful decisive encounters, the strength of the Abu Sayyaf has greatly decreased including the leaders and their capability to conduct terror or atrocities.”

The AFP said that more than 50 Abu Sayyaf bandits have surrendered in Basilan, Jolo and Tawi-Tawi due to their relentless military operations since this year.

Some 149 Abu Sayyaf bandits were also killed in Western Mindanao based on the tally provided by AFP’s Western Mindanao Command. (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)