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HOSPITAL VISIT. President Aquino talks to a wounded soldier during his visit at Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City yesterday. (PHOTO COURTESY OF WEST MINDANAO COMMAND)

Aquino visits soldier’s wake, wounded men in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA City– President Aquino yesterday visited the wake of a soldier who died in combat in Basilan on Saturday, and assured his family of government support.

Aquino arrived in Barangay Ayala and met the family of Cpl. Rodelio Bangcairin, one of the fatalities in the bloody encounter in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

Bangcairin, 40, is survived by his wife and two children, ages 12 and 3. He was a member of the Army, and served the military for 16 years, according to his family.

After his visit in Barangay Ayala, Aquino proceeded to visit wounded soldiers at Camp Navarro General Hospital inside the Western Mindanao Command. Thirty-eight soldiers are confined hospital for treatment.

The President also went to Edwin Andrews Air Base Hospital to meet six soldiers who are confined there.

Aquino extended financial assistance to the families of soldiers who were killed and wounded in Basilan. He met with the families of the 18 soldiers who were killed during the clash.

The medical staff of Camp Navarro General Hospital said a total of 53 soldiers were wounded during the encounter in Basilan on April 9.

Aside from those confined in military hospitals here, other wounded soldiers are recuperating in other private hospitals here, and some were flown to V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City.

Eighteen soldiers died in the clash in Basilan, which according to the military, was a result of the continuing military offensive against the militants.

Military officials said they started the operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group in November last year. They vowed to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf first before organizing a board of inquiry to get to the bottom of the bloody Basilan encounter.

The 1st Infantry Division said it received unconfirmed reports that 28 Abu Sayyaf members were killed in the ongoing military operations in Basilan.

Maj. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, said the financial assistance for every soldier include P250,000 from the Office of the President, P180,000 cash remuneration,  P50,000 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines Mutual Benefit Association Inc., P80,000 for burial expenses, and, P100,000 from Philippine Army Finance Center Producers Integrated Cooperative.

Barrientos said the government would also give scholarship grant to the dependents of the fallen soldiers.

“This is over and above ng remunerations na binibigay ng ating organization,” Barrientos said.

He said the troops of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division have also contributed some amount that would be given to slain soldiers’ families.

Maj. Filemon Tan, Westmincom information officer, said the visit of the President was a big boost to the morale of the troops.

As of yesterday, Tan said the offensive continues against the Abu Sayyaf in the hinterlands of Basilan.

He said latest report showed that 57 soldiers were wounded since the fire fight against the Abu Sayyaf broke out on Saturday in Sitio Bayoko, Barangay Baguindan, Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.

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