MANILA—The deployment of battle-tested commanders in the government’s ongoing campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists is certainly reaping good results as the lawless elements are now being forced away from their traditional hunting grounds.
This was stressed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo Wednesday when asked what other factors have so far contributed to the ASG decline in Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
He cited the case of Joint Task Force Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, military units engaged in the campaign against the ASG, who are now being commanded by battle-hardened commanders in the guise of Brig. Gens. Cirilito Sobejana and Custodio Parcon, respectively.
Both men are known for competency and bravery in the field, aside from being recipients of the country’s highest military decoration, the Medal Of Valor which is equivalent to the US Congressional Medal of Honor and United Kingdom’s Victoria Cross.
Due to the leadership exhibited by the two men, ASG bandits in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are now having a hard time operating in their former hold-outs as military units in the areas are always conducting tracking and pursuit operations against the lawless elements.
Arevalo said brilliance of these officers and bravery of their men are backed up by the whole-hearted support of AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año who has committed all available military assets and resources to eliminating the terror group.
Western Mindanao Command data indicated that from Jan. 1 up to May 17, a total of 81 ASG bandits were killed, with the surrender of another 50 brigands, apprehension of 18 and capture of 70 high- and low-powered weapons from the terror group’s members.
Arevalo said the number of surrendered ASG terrorists is unprecedent as this is the first time the terrorists have opted to surrender en masse.
The AFP public affairs office chief said that the surrendered bandits are also claiming that their finances are going low due to their inability to kidnap new victims and ransom them, crimping on their ability to acquire weapons, food and other supplies.
This lack has caused the morale of the ASG members to plummet making them prone to surrenders.