From farming to fighting, Abu Sayyaf militant returns to society to live a peaceful life with family

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - (Bureau of Public Information)

BASILAN – The 27-year old Wiril Muril has returned to farming six years after he joined the notorious militant group Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. But his membership to the Abu Sayyaf was more of a protection from clan war, rather than terrorism.

Wiril, a resident of Baywas village in Sumisip town, said he abandoned the Abu Sayyaf after realizing that joining the outlawed group only endangered himself and his family. Recalling how it was then, Wiril said: “Walang training sa amin, kapag may baril ka, pasok ka na.”

He said being part of the criminal activities of the Abu Sayyaf, including ransom kidnappings, “dito ko nalaman na hindi ito ang jihad na gusto kong maging kabahagi. Ang jihad sa Islam ay maganda.

Noong nakita ko na may kidnapping, may harassment ng community, pumapatay ng civilian, hindi ko na nakita ang jihad sa Abu Sayyaf.”

Wiril said jihad or holy war is when a person does something good for himself, family and the community and not as what the Abu Sayyaf is espousing.

He said he longed wanted to break off from the Abu Sayyaf, but the thoughts of being captured or arrested by the authorities had him thinking many times – whether to give up or continue running and hiding as an Abu Sayyaf member, until he heard about the government’s reformation program. It was the day Wiril said he awaited.

“Akala ko wala na talaga akong tsansa na makapagbagong buhay, meron pa pala,” he said.

He and 83 other militants surrendered to the government and that was the day Wiril tasted what freedom really is. “Hindi ko naisip na matakot dahil malinaw ang batas ng gobyerno na kapag nagbalik-loob ka sa kanila, bibigyan ka ng tsansa na maayos,” he said.

Muril, now living a peaceful farming life with his family, received a cassava processing machine from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which greatly helped him earn a decent living for his wife and seven children.

Since last year, ARMM had initiated a series of psychosocial interventions to help the returnees start a new life and also many infrastructure projects for Basilan. Muril also said that he now enjoys his new life. “May magandang kalsada, tubig, maayos na bahay. Yung nagigising ka ng alas sais ng umaga at nakikita mong nandiyan ang kalsada, nandiyan ang tubig at hindi ka natatakot,” he said.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman vows to continue various programs aimed at uplifting the welfare not only of the former Abu Sayyaf militants, but the community in particular. “This is a collaboration. A collaboration of everybody who wanted peace and stability, economic progress and development on Basilan as well as the whole of ARMM,” he said.

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