Inquirer reporter (and, ahem, Inquirer labor union president) Dona Pazzibugan filed the following report from Camp Aguinaldo last September. This version, which ran in Inquirer Compact on September 7, 2006, is both tighter and longer than the story which appeared, on the same day, on Page A3 of the broadsheet. It’s a good read; Dona did a good job, and I think perhaps more people ought to be able to read it.
There is a book in here somewhere.
‘Only 4 meters away from the Abu Sayyaf’
Marine Lt. recounts encounter
By Dona Pazzibugan
THEY WERE OUTNUMBERED BUT not outfought. The 27 Marines who stumbled on an Abu Sayyaf base in the jungles of Patikul, Sulu on Sept. 4 battled some 200 bandits for three hours before reinforcements arrived. Six Marines were killed, while 19 were wounded, including the platoon leader, 2Lt. Romulo Dimayuga.
From his hospital bed at the Armed Forces Medical Center in Quezon City yesterday, Dimayuga recounted how their ambush of a rebel outpost deteriorated into a major gun battle.
Dimayuga said his platoon, part of the elite Marine Force Reconnaissance Battalion, tracked down about 40 Abu Sayyaf bandits in barangay Tugas in Patikul at around 3 a.m. last Monday.
Under cover of darkness and thick vegetation, the Marines got as close as four meters from the outpost while the Abus were sleeping.
At around 4 a.m., when the al-Qaida-affiliated gunmen started their morning prayer ritual, the troops withdrew to higher ground. They launched the ambush as the Abus were having breakfast, by hurling grenades into the camp.
“We hurled grenades and followed up with a heavy volume of fire. We got them,” Dimayuga said in Filipino.
Unknown to the troops, however, more Abu Sayyafs were camped nearby. Dimayuga said the rebels were only about 15 meters away. They quickly surrounded the Marines.
Under heavy fire, the Marines suffered casualties.
“While their number was increasing, ours was decreasing. But we were still organized,” said Dimayuga, who was shot in the chest when he tried to save one of his wounded troops. (The bullet exited through his abdomen.)
“We held the line. We saw them advancing. Although we were injured, we could still aim at them,” he said.
While they waited for reinforcement troops, a Marine base nearby fired mortar shells at the bandits’ location.
When reinforcements from the Marine Force Reconnaissance Battalion arrived on the scene some three hours later, the rebels withdrew.
The gun battle was the biggest military encounter since the AFP stepped up the manhunt against Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khaddafy Janjalani last Aug. 1.
The Abu Sayyaf suffered an undetermined number of casualties.
The gun battle was only the second in the 24-year-old Dimayuga’s military career. He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 2005.
His platoon was on a test mission that day, Sept. 4.
Marine spokesman Lt. Col. Ariel Caculitan said it was noteworthy that the Abus never got the chance to grab the soldiers’ firearms or mutilate the bodies of the dead soldiers.