LIEUTENANT General Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, has declared that the death of the troops will not dampen the fighting spirit of the soldiers pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province of Sulu.

Dela Cruz issued the statement Tuesday, August 30, a day after 15 soldiers, including a junior officer, were killed while 10 others were wounded in intense gun battle against the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the village of Maligay, Patikul.

Dela Cruz said the slain troops were immortalized as heroes as they sacrificed for the love of country and to achieve peace and security for the future generation.

The troops died in an intense firefight that erupted as the country was commemorating on Monday the National Heroes Day.

“Our forces fought gallantly, the firefight was intense and our troops sacrificed their lives to give the next generation the peace and security they truly deserve. We will mourn the loss of our brothers, but it will not dampen the fighting spirit of our troops,” Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz said the momentum is on the side of the government forces and that they will continue the fight until they accomplish the mission.

“Kung sinuman ang humarang o tumulong sa ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), sasagasaan kayo ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” he added.

Dela Cruz said that more troops, equipment and firepower will be committed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf bandits citing what they have seen “is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The focus military operations have been ongoing against the ASG since Friday, August 26, a day after the bandits beheaded 18-year-old Patrick Jhames Almodavar.

Almodavar was buried Tuesday at a private cemetery in this city.