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Pres Duterte meets kin of Lamitan car bomb victims


President Rodrigo Duterte visited Zamboanga City again on Saturday evening to personally extend his condolences and assistance to the families of the victims of a van explosion in Basilan last Tuesday.

The President, accompanied by his Special Assistant Bong Go and Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana, arrived in a presidential chopper which landed at the Philippine Air Force's Edwin Andrews Air Base ground at quarter before 8 p.m. amid tight security.

Upon landing at EAAB, the President met briefly with military's top brass led by Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega and whisked away in a convoy with security officials straight to Camp Navarro General Hospital, Upper Calarian in the city's west coast.

All members of local defense press corps, who waited for long hours at WestMinCom headquarters media center, were prevented by the Media Accreditation Relation Officers (MARO) and military officials attached to the president from gaining access to the hospital.

Authorities also rejected local print, television and radio journalists' proposal that they be allowed to have interview with the President and ask questions on the wounded soldiers and their kin about the specifics of Lamitan bombing.

It was learned from the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCCO), the Chief Executive talked to the bereaved families of Cpl. Samad Jumah; CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) Muid Manda, CAA Adzian Abdulla, CAA Hermilito Gapo Jr., and CAA Omar Teteng; and four civilians Rosa Inso; Rosida and Garry Teteng, wife and son of CAA Teteng; and Hadja Radia Manda, wife of CAA Manda.

PCCO said the President posthumously awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu Kalasag Medal to Cpl. Jumah, CAA Manda, CAA Abdulla, CAA Gapo, and CAA Teteng.

Accordingly, the Kalasag Medal is awarded to officials and personnel of the government and private individuals who lost their lives as a direct result of their participation in an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the President.

PCCO furthered that President Duterte promised to provide Jay-ar, Teteng’s son, with educational assistance and allowance. He also gave Gerry, Inso’s nephew, financial assistance.

It added the President then proceeded to Heroes Ward 1 to personally check the condition of soldiers and CAA who were injured during the blast in Basilan.

According to PCCO,  the President also awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu Kampilan Medal to the six wounded military officers (1Lt. Rojean Rodriguez, Sgt. Mike Elumba, Sgt. Renante Escañan, Cpl. Romeo Tabon Jr., PFC Jeffrey Martecio, and PFC Rody Frias) and three CAA (CAA Wilbert Garcia, CAA Gregorio Inso, and CAA Gerry Inso Sr.).

CAA Gerry is currently admitted at the intensive care unit of Ciudad Medical Zamboanga and was represented by his wife Angelina who was also injured.

The Kampilan Medal is awarded to officials and personnel of the government and private individuals who were seriously wounded, injured, or suffered great loss of property as a result of their participation in an activity pursuant to a campaign or advocacy of the president.

Mr Duterte hoped for the quick recovery of the soldiers and CAA. He also reminded them to be careful during their duties. At the same time, he told them to call his office or the government if they need more assistance.

Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, WestMinCom spokesperson, confirmed that the President has extended financial assistance to all the families of blast victims, but he did not say how much cash each family received.

It was not clear whether Duterte pushed through with a command conference with the military and police officials at WestMinCom and visit to Lamitan City, Basilan.

The President was reported earlier to have ordered the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to go after those behind last Tuesday's bombing in Lamitan City that left 10 people dead, including the bomber.

The explosion took place at 5:50 a.m. near the Magwakit Detachment in Barangay Colonia, after troops in the area intercepted a white van carrying improvised explosives devices (IEDs).

Authorities said the van suddenly exploded after soldiers inspected the vehicle.

SITE Intel Group website reported that ISIS’ East Asia Division announced that a militant "Abu Kathir al-Maghribi (the Moroccan)” carried out the bombing describing it a suicide operation.

It said the operation appears to be expanding the ISIS aims and capabilities there.

According to the SITE report, the bomber used a VBIED, an acronym for Vehicle-Born Improvised Explosive Devices, to showcase a new tactic and first suicide operation of ISIS in the Philippines.

SITE also described the bombing as the first attack by non-regional migrant and attributed it to a Moroccan national.

But the AFP has dismissed Islamic State’s claim that July 31's van blast in southern Philippines was carried out by a foreign suicide bomber. It insisted that based on its initial investigations indicated that the vehicle could have been detonated remotely.

The military believes that the attack could have been carried out by a faction of the notorious Abu Sayyaf, led by the group's Basilan-based sub-leader Furuji Indama.

The Abu Sayyaf is known for bombing, extortion, kidnapping, and beheading of foreign captives if the ransom demand was not paid.

The terror group's Basilan-based leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was designated by ISIS as its "emir" in South-east Asia, joined with the ISIS-inspired Maute group that laid siege on Marawi city last May 23, 2017, which prompted President Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

The Marawi conflict has left over 500 people dead, mostly terrorists, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Congress extended the military rule in Mindanao until the end of 2018 to quell the threat of terrorism. Hader Glang

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