New Marines chief vows to sustain fight vs ASG

July 18, 2009 2:22 pm 

MANILA, July 18 — Newly-installed Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban said Marine soldiers will not relent in the fight against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which is being blamed for a number of high-profile bombings and kidnappings in the country.

Sabban made the declaration days after Malacanang said it was rejecting proposals for the government to declare an amnesty to members of the Abu Sayyaf following the release of Italian captive Eugenio Vagni last Sunday.

"We have never relented going after the Abu Sayyaf. As what we have been saying before, there should be no negotiations with the terrorists," said Sabban, who will remain as commander of the Joint Task Force Comet.

The task force, which directs the operations against the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Sulu provinces under the authority of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, was instrumental in the release of Vagni, specifically for the pressure it applied to the bandit group.

"The Board of Generals will recommend somebody to replace me and it will be the President (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) who will approve it. For the meantime, I will go back to Sulu and continue operations there," said Sabban.

The Board of Generals is headed by AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado.

"Until such time there is a replacement (for me at the task force), I have to continue with my duty. It's very basic in the military when not relieved, you have to stand your ground," the official said.

Sabban revealed that a number of Abu Sayyaf leaders have sent surrender feelers.

"They were sending feelers that they would surrender but surrendering is different from giving amnesty. But even if they surrender, they should still face the court for charges filed against them," he said.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has directed the military establishment to launch relentless operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and in Basilan following the release of Vagni.

On whether more Marine soldiers will be deployed in Sulu as part of the intensified campaign, Sabban said: "As the ground commander in Sulu, our troops are sufficient. Maybe what we need more are modern equipment. I cannot reveal that, but we're in the process of getting these equipment."

Sabban replaced on Friday Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino as Marine commandant.

Dolorfino, on the other hand, had been promoted as commander of the AFP's Western Mindanao Command. He replaced now retired Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga. (PNA)



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