The Armed Forces insisted that there were “no lapses” in the clash between Marine troopers and Abu Sayyaf members in Patikul, Sulu, but admitted it was reviewing tactics to improve operations after the deadly encounter.

Camp Aguinaldo, the Navy, and the Marine Corps are also conducting an inquiry into the clash to “revisit” doctrines, tactics, trainings, and procedures “in the light of the casualties suffered,” AFP spokesman Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez said in a press briefing Wednesday.

Results of the inquiry will be sent to military schools, Rodriguez told reporters.

“We feel that with the inquiry, we can better improve our conduct of combat operations so as to minimize our casualties,” he added.

Seven Marine soldiers got killed, two of whom were beheaded, while 26 others were injured in the clash on July 28.

Despite the platoon-size number of casualties, Rodriguez said there were “basically no lapses,” even in the gathering of intelligence information.

“There was no failure of intelligence on this part because the intelligence (information) provided were accurate, including the presence of the top Abu Sayyaf leaders in that area,” he said.

It was said that the 11th Marine Battalion Landing Team platoon led by 2Lt. Michael Baladad (one of the fatalities) faced more or less 70 bandits under Isnilon Hapilon and Radullan Sahiron.

Hapilon and Sahiron are both considered by the military as ranking Abu Sayyaf leaders, with the latter presumed to have become the group’s top leader since Khadaffy Janjalani got killed in September 2006.

Major Gen. Jose Mabanta, AFP deputy chief of staff for operations, admitted in an earlier interview that the troops “underestimated” the numbers and capability of the Abu Sayyaf during the operation.

“We underestimated the positions and the number of the enemy. We did not see that they were well positioned, well entrenched,” he said. (John Roson)

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