52 Pinoys honored for rescuing 3 abducted Indonesian fishers

August 4, 2022 Cristina Lee-Pisco 303 views

FIFTY-TWO Filipinos who were instrumental in the rescue of three Indonesian fishermen who were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in 2019 were awarded on Wednesday by the Indonesian government.

The “Medali Perdamaian” or the Medal of Peace was given to former Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana and former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of Staff Gen. (Ret.) Cirilito Sobejana.

Sobejana was then the commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

Fifty members of the Western Mindanao Command who were directly involved in the rescue operation received the Medal of Dharma Defense.

Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Agus Widjojo said Lorenzana and Sobejana are the first Filipino nationals to receive the Medal of Peace.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave the award to those who “contributed greatly to advancing peace”.

“I have always believed in the capabilities and professionalism of the Philippine soldiers under the leadership of their commanding officers in ensuring favorable results,” Widjojo said.

“It is their sense of commitment to uphold the righteous and condemn the lawlessness that made Indonesia decide to grant them two of Indonesia’s tokens of honor: the Medal of Peace and the Dharma Medal of Defense,” he added.

The three Indonesians were fishing in the waters of Tambisan Island in Lahad Datu, Sabah, on Sept. 23, 2019, when the terrorist group abducted them.

Two of the three abducted were rescued on Dec. 22, 2019, while the remaining one was freed on Jan. 15, 2020.

Sgt. Romnick Estacio of the Philippine Navy Marine died, and two others sustained gunshot wounds during the rescue operations. Estacio was posthumously awarded along with the 49 AFP officers.

Widjojo said the award shows the “success of effective defense and security cooperation” between the two nations.

On the other hand, Lorenzana cited the trilateral cooperation between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, which he said greatly contributed to the progress in curbing the kidnappings in the Sulu Sea.

“The actions taken by the Philippines and the trilateral cooperation among the three countries proved to be very effective, that for a while, there were no kidnappings in the Sulu Sea… But sometime in 2019, the (Abu Sayyaf) kidnapped three Indonesian nationals and tried to bring them to Sulu,” he shared.

“Our theory proved correct that the kidnappers need the islands to successfully bring their hostages to Sulu,” he added.

Widjojo hoped the two nations could further strengthen cooperation as terrorism and other transnational crimes remain an ever-present threat.

“It could take the form of joint patrolling, intelligence sharing, enhancing capacity, and learning of best practices. It can take many forms, but the purpose is so that when we come together to conduct a joint mission, we are already familiar with the other,” he said.