No Abu in Cebu

Cebu Daily News - - NEWS - by Ador Vin­cent S. Mayol SE­NIOR RE­PORTER

Atop mil­i­tary of­fi­cer quelled fears that some ban­dits from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have crossed to Cebu.

Capt. Jojo Mas­car­iñas, spokesper­son of the 302nd In­fantry Brigade of the Philip­pine Army, said the eight re­main­ing ASG mem­bers who sur­vived the gun bat­tle with gov­ern­ment forces in Barangay Napo, In­a­banga town last April 11 are trapped in the vil­lage.

“Ang walo ay nasa bun­dok ng Napo. Mon­i­tored namin sila. (All eight ban­dits are in the moun­tains of Napo. We are mon­i­tor­ing them),” he told CEBU DAILY

NEWS over the phone on Friday. He none­the­less ad­vised peo­ple from Bo­hol and Cebu to be vig­i­lant at all times and to help gov­ern­ment troop­ers in fight­ing the ban­dit group.

On the other hand, gov­ern­ment troops con­tinue to search for two armed men who were spot­ted along the beach lines of Barangay San Vi­cente on Olango Is­land on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

San Vi­cente Barangay Cap­tain Cyrus Eyas, how­ever, said the sight­ings and the pres­ence of soldiers and po­lice­men cre­ated fear es­pe­cially among res­i­dents of Si­tios Bas­daku and Basku­ral where the two armed men were re­port­edly seen.

He said they feared the two were mem­bers of the ASG who were be­ing hunted down in In­a­banga since the Bo­hol town is lo­cated just across Olango Is­land and can be reached in a lit­tle over an hour’s travel by pump­boat. Trapped in Bo­hol

Bo­hol Gov. Edgar Chatto also main­tained that the Abu Sayyaf ban­dits were still in In­a­banga town, about 71 km. from the cap­i­tal city of Tag­bi­la­ran.

“Un­til last (Thurs­day) night, the in­for­ma­tion re­ceived from the po­lice was the armed men were still in In­a­banga,” Chatto told re­porters dur­ing his weekly pro­gram “Kita Ug Ang Gob­er­nador” at the Gov­er­nor’s Man­sion.

Mas­car­iñas added that not only were the eight ASG mem­bers still trapped in Bo­hol; one of them, Joselito Mil­lo­ria, a Bo­hol na­tive, sus­tained a gun­shot wound on his left shoul­der dur­ing the gun­fight.

Since Mil­lo­ria hails from In­a­banga town, Mas­car­iñas said there is a pos­si­bil­ity that he now serves as the leader of the ban­dit group that en­tered Bo­hol.

“Mil­lo­ria is fa­mil­iar with the place. He must be serv­ing as the leader of the ban­dits,” he said.

With over a week since the gun­fight be­tween the ASG mem­bers and gov­ern­ment troop­ers, Mas­car­iñas said they did not know how the ban­dits sur­vive in the moun­tains.

“Where do they get food to eat? That’s the big ques­tion we could hardly an­swer. But per­haps they start to beg for food to sur­vive,” Mas­car­iñas said.

Frank Bay­lo­sis, spokesper­son of the In­a­banga mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, told

CDN by phone yes­ter­day that many res­i­dents of Napo still stay in the evac­u­a­tion cen­ters, re­turn­ing to their vil­lage only at day­time to tend to their flock and farms.

He said they feared that some res­i­dents re­turn­ing home dur­ing the day might be ab­ducted by the ban­dits to be used as hu­man shields. But he said the lo­cal gov­ern­ment could not stop them since they are wor­ried about their crops and an­i­mals.

Based on gov­ern­ment records, Napo, a farm­ing com­mu­nity, cur­rently has 163 reg­is­tered fam­i­lies, which trans­lates to 781 in­di­vid­u­als.

“I ap­peal to the peo­ple to stay vig­i­lant. If they see sus­pi­cious-look­ing per­sons, re­port it right away to au­thor­i­ties,” Bay­lo­sis said.

Posters with the names and pho­tographs of three of the eight re­main­ing ASG mem­bers in Bo­hol were dis­trib­uted to the peo­ple to help gov­ern­ment troop­ers mon­i­tor the area.

“We were in­formed by the mil­i­tary that the ban­dits are trapped in the moun­tains of Napo. We don’t know why our troop­ers have not neu­tral­ized them. I be­lieve there are tac­ti­cal moves they need to con­sider,” Bay­lo­sis said.

He added: “Of course, the ban­dits are on the moun­tains. They ap­par­ently have an ad­van­tage over our soldiers.”

Mas­car­iñas said they need the help of the pub­lic in mon­i­tor­ing the re­main­ing ban­dits.

“Frankly speak­ing, it’s hard to se­cure Bo­hol con­sid­er­ing its very wide coast­line. Let’s help one an­other. The com­mu­nity must serve as the ex­tended eyes of the gov­ern­ment forces,” he said.

He re­it­er­ated that the ten­sion is none­the­less con­fined in Barangay Napo.

“The rest of Bo­hol as well as Cebu is safe,” Mas­car­iñas said.

At least six ASG mem­bers, in­clud­ing their leader Mau­mar “Abu Rami” Askali, were killed in the seige that also killed three soldiers and a po­lice­man. But eight oth­ers ban­dits — Joselito “Alih” Mil­lo­ria and those with aliases Richard, Asis, Ubayda, Poy, Dah, Saad and Amra — es­caped.

Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte has of­fered a P1-mil­lion re­ward to any­one who could lead to the cap­ture of the ASG mem­bers in Bo­hol, dead or alive. Not all Mus­lims are Abu Sayyaf

Malo Manong­gir­ing, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on Mus­lim Filipinos in Cen­tral Visayas (NCMF-7), mean­while, said they are also on the look­out for the pres­ence of ASG mem­bers in Cebu.

“We can as­sure the pub­lic that there are no sight­ings of Abu Sayyaf mem­bers in Cebu,” Manong­gir­ing said.

He also ap­pealed to the pub­lic to be

alert at all times and re­port to au­thor­i­ties any sus­pi­cious-look­ing per­sons and un­usual ac­tiv­i­ties.

“La­banan natin itong nagha­hasik ng gulo. Magkaisa tayo. Da­pat pro­tek­ta­han natin ang at­ing sar­il­ing bayan. Walang

mag­tu­tu­lun­gan kung hindi tayo. (Let us fight those who spread vi­o­lence. Let us be united and pro­tect our coun­try. There’s no one to help each other but us),” he said.

“Re­li­gion is not a bar­rier. We are all Filipinos,” he added.

Manong­gir­ing clar­i­fied that not all Mus­lims or those from Min­danao are mem­bers of the ASG.

“Even our Pres­i­dent (Ro­drigo Duterte) is from Min­danao. If you come from Min­danao, it doesn’t mean that you are an Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

He said the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Cebu un­der­stand that the po­lice were just val­i­dat­ing all re­ports when some of their Mus­lim brothers or sis­ters were held for ques­tion­ing, sim­i­lar to what hap­pened in Os­lob on Thurs­day.

“All re­ports should be val­i­dated by the po­lice. We could not be com­pla­cent,” he said.

Manong­gir­ing urged the gov­ern­ment to make good of its plan to rid the coun­try of the ter­ror group from Sulu, ad­ding he has high hopes that Pres­i­dent Duterte will ful­fill his prom­ise to go af­ter the ban­dits.

“Sana mau­bos na yang mga taong balok­tot ang pagi­isip. Ta­pusin na yan. (I hope these peo­ple with twisted think­ing will be sup­pressed. Fin­ish them off),” he said.

Manong­gir­ing said the ASG has been op­er­at­ing for decades, yet the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions have failed to stop their ban­ditry.

“The prob­lem was pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions are not sin­cere in get­ting rid of the Abu Sayyaf. If only the gov­ern­ment is sin­cere and will use its en­tire force, I’m sure this group will not thrive,” he said.

Manong­gir­ing said ASG mem­bers are not real Mus­lims be­cause they have no re­spect for hu­man life and dig­nity.

“Abu Sayyaf mem­bers are crim­i­nals. They are not real Mus­lims. They only claim to be one. Real Mus­lims are not in­volved in kid­nap for ran­soms or killings. In­stead, Mus­lims pro­tect the rights of oth­ers. If you kill even just one per­son, it’s as if you kill whole of hu­man­ity,” he ex­plained.

He said ASG mem­bers just want to en­rich them­selves by kid­nap­ping peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly for­eign­ers.

“Pera-pera lang yan. Walang si­lang alam na re­li­gion. (They are only af­ter money. They know noth­ing about re­li­gion),” he said.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO/LLCPO

Po­lice­men from the Lapu-Lapu City Po­lice Of­fice in search of armed per­sons sighted on Olango Is­land are search­ing a man­grove area in Barangay San Vi­cente when they come upon a clear­ing with makeshift ham­mocks and traces of food in this photo taken on April 21, 2017.

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