TWENTY-one members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) accused of involvement in dozens of atrocities in Sulu since 2000 have surrendered to the government following talks with officials of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF), the Journal Group learned on Thursday.
PNP-SAF Director Major General Edgar Alan O. Okubo formally received the 21 during ceremonies held in Barangay Bangkal in Patikul municipality on Wednesday morning.
In a report to PNP Chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr., the PNP-SAF director said that the 21 have been accused of involvement in numerous bombings, kidnappings-for-ransom, assassination, and extortion activities in the Southern Philippines, including the infamous Sipadan kidnappings in Sabah, Malaysia in 2000.
They were also monitored to have had a role in the abduction of a Malaysian national, an ABS-CBN cameraman, and three International Red Cross workers in 2009, as well as the ambush of the late Sulu Police Provincial Office director, Colonel Julasirim Kiram and three of his men.
Apart from that, the 21 were also tagged for their involvement in attacks on security forces in Bgys. Sinumaan in Talipao and Sapah Malum and Camp Marang in Indanan town.
Okubo said that the 21 heeded calls for them to surrender to the government by a member of the PNP-SAF stationed in Sulu.
The SAF troopers were assisted by officers from the Sulu PPO, the Joint Task Force Sulu, the Regional Intelligence Unit 9, and the Sulu Regional Maritime Unit in their effort to convince the 21 to yield.
The PNP-SAF director said they are assisting the 21 in processing their papers before their enrollment in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP for rebel returnees.
He also extended a P10,000 financial assistance to each of the 21 who also received sacks of rice and grocery packages from the RMU and the Ministry of Social Services and Development.
The official said that the 21 will also have the chance to join different livelihood programs being offered by the government to help them feed their families.
On Monday, three hard-core ASG members based in Jolo, Sulu, also turned themselves over to police authorities following talks with officers from the PNP-SAF and the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The three identified as alias “Appah,”; “Jurrim,”; “Jurrim,”; and “Ebin” are now undergoing a debriefing before the processing of their papers that will allow them to avail of government benefits for returning rebels.
According to PNP-CIDG Director Brig. Gen. Ronald O. Lee, the three yielded following negotiations with local CIDG officers and the 7th Special Action Battalion (SAB) and the 84th Special Action Company (SAC) of the SAF’s Rapid Deployment Battalion.
They were welcomed by officials inside Camp Julasirim Kasim Asturias in Jolo, Sulu, on Monday afternoon.
Lee described “Appah” as a member of the extremist group since 2015, while “Jurrim” and “Ebin” were found to have joined the terror band in 2001.
Appah is known to have served under the notorious ASG leader Radulan Sahiron who carries a US$1 million dollar bounty on his head offered by the United States government.
The two others were known to be members of an Abu Sayyaf band led by the late Commander Amah Maas.
All three were said to have been involved in a number of clashes with security forces in Sulu, as well as the infamous Sipadan kidnappings on April 23, 2000. On that day, up to six Abu Sayyaf bandits seized 21 hostages, including ten tourists from Europe and the Middle East and 11 Malaysian resort workers from the dive resort island of Sipadan in Sabah, Malaysia.
On September 16 of the same year, Army troops launched a major offensive on the island, which led to the rescue of the hostages except for Filipino dive instructor Roland Ullah who was eventually freed by his captors in 2003.
Lee said that the three Abu Sayyaf men confessed that they decided to return to the folds of law upon realizing that they were just “deceived by the sweet lies and false ideologies” of the armed group.