MANILA - President Duterte on Wednesday guaranteed government assistance for the families of 15 "heroes" of the Army who died in battles against Abu Sayyaf extremists.
Duterte lauded the soldiers for sacrificing their lives for the country as they engaged the bandit group in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu last Monday.
"Itong lahat ng namatay, binigyan ko ng saludo. Hindi ako nagsasaludo kapag hindi ako nagrepesto sa tao.
"Ito ang nagpakamatay para sa bayan, sa Repulika ng Pilipinas, where I am now the President, I consider everybody there -- the fallen heroes at the back -- all heroes yan," he said at Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City where a wake for 11 of the 15 fatalities was held.
(I salute all the slain soldiers. I never salute anyone who has not gained my respect.)
(These soldiers died for our country, the Republic of the Philippines, where I am now the President. I consider everybody there as heroes.)
Duterte promised that the families of the fallen soldiers will become automatic beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and will receive monthly rice allowance. Their children, he said, will also receive educational support.
The President added that he has directed the Department of Interior and Local Government to find government posts for the soldiers' widows.
Duterte also left his personal number to the grieving families.
NO TO MUTILATION
The fatalities, members of the 21st and 35th Infantry Battalion, were killed Monday in a prolonged skirmish that yielded the biggest military casualty in a single day so far under the Duterte administration.
The military claimed 30 Abu Sayyaf members, including a sub-commander, also perished in the clashes.
Although the Army earlier said that none of the troops' bodies was "bastardized or disrespected," Duterte on Wednesday pleaded with soldiers and rebels alike to avoid mutilating the bodies of enemy forces.
"Ikaw, kung warrior ka, isang bala lang. Kaya sabi ko sa mga sundalo, wag niyong ratratin ang mukha, sirain ang katawan," he said.
(If you're indeed a warrior, one bullet would do. I instructed soldiers not to open fire on faces or destroy bodies.)
"You think Allah will be happy to do that, in the name of Allah you kill and unnecessarily mutilate?"
The President ended his speech wishing for an end to the decades-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of life in the south.
"We want to end this war. I do not want to continue even for a day sana. Walang sundalo rito na gustong magpakamatay, may mga pamilya iyan," he said.
(No soldier wants to die, they all have families.)
"I implore the divine intervention of Allah para magkaintindihan tayong lahat (so that we may understand each other)."