Duterte grants reward to Marines for neutralization of ASG leader, rescue of kidnap victims in Tawi-Tawi

Robie de Guzman   •   May 31, 2021   •   305

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has conferred medals and monetary reward to the Philippine Marine troops behind the rescue of Indonesian kidnap victims and the killing of an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader in Tawi-Tawi, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) said Monday.

In a statement, the WestMinCom said AFP chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana handed over the reward in a ceremony held at the 2nd Marine Brigade headquarters in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao on Sunday.

Sobejana awarded the Distinguished Navy Cross to Colonel Nestor Narag, Jr. for the latter’s extraordinary achievement as the Deputy Commander of Joint Task Tawi-Tawi during the successful rescue of 4 Indonesian kidnap victims in Kalupag Island, Languyan, Tawi-Tawi on March 21, 2021.

The WestMinCom said Narag orchestrated a comprehensive Fleet-Marine operation and provided command and control to the operating sailors and marines who engaged the enemies, which resulted in the death of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Majan Sahidjuan alias Apo Mike, and two of his followers.

A Silver Cross Medal was awarded to the Special Intelligence Team under the 2nd Marine Brigade who provided timely intelligence information that led to the successful conduct of focused military and combat clearing operations in Kalupag Island, Languyan and Tandungan Island, Tandubas, all of Tawi-Tawi on March 19 to 24, 2021.

We have to make ourselves happy all the time so that we become more productive. I always translate happiness into productivity regardless of where we are,” Sobejana said.

“To the commanders, let us always strike a good balance on mission accomplishment and the morale and welfare of our soldiers,” he added.

Sobejana handed over the monetary reward amounting to P2 million intended for the units involved in the successful neutralization of Apo Mike.

WestMinCom Commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., Naval Forces Western Mindanao Commander Rear Admiral Toribio Adaci, Jr., Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi Commander Brig. Gen. Arturo Rojas, and other military officers were also present during the ceremony.

Abu Sayyaf member nabbed in Jolo is an active non-uniformed PNP personnel – Eleazar

Robie de Guzman   •   August 2, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – An active non-uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) who allegedly has links with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was arrested in Jolo, PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar said.

In a statement, Eleazar identified the suspect as Masckur Adoh Patarasa alias Makong/Omair Sali Taib.

Patarasa, a brother-in-law of the late Isnilon Hapilon, was arrested during a police operation in Barangay Asturias last Friday, July 30.

Eleazar said Patarasa is presently assigned at Banguingui Municipal Police Station in Sulu but was found out to be working as finance/logistics liaison officer of Dauwla Islamiya/ASG.

He added that the suspect’s name was also included in the Martial Law Arrest Order No. 1 during the Marawi Siege in 2017.

“Patarasa is the subject of Warrants of Arrest issued by Honorable LEO JAY T. PRINCIPE, Presiding Judge, RTC, 9th Judicial Region, Branch 1, Isabela City, Basilan as an accused in seven separate cases of kidnaping and serious illegal detention,” Eleazar said.

Police records revealed that in May 2017, Patarasa, together with an unidentified individual linked with ASG, planned to transact the sending of funds to ASG members fighting in Marawi City thru his brother-in-law Isnilon Hapilon.

Eleazar said Patarasa joined the ASG in 2001 under Khadaffy Janjalani in Basilan and later shifted to ASG Senior Leader Radullan Sahiron in Sulu.

He was also known to have direct contact with Jemaah Islamiyah operative AMIN Baco alias Guro Jihad and other ASG personalities.

Investigation also revealed that Patarasa allegedly received funds from Almaida Salvin, a designated terrorist included in the U.S. Treasury’s sanctions list who was arrested sometime in April 2019 for illegal possession of explosives thru Merhama Sawari who was neutralized in Parañaque City shootout together with three suspected terrorists in June 2020.

“I am glad that our personnel were able to arrest the subject person, this still forms part of the Intensified Cleanliness Policy that we are implementing, Cleanliness of the ranks should be maintained to regain the trust and confidence of the people to our organization,” Eleazar said.

I commend our units here in Region 9 as well as other units involved in the arrest of this person, your action is a reflection of our campaign to keep the organization free from persons with ill motives. Let us join hands in keeping the Philippine National Police a respectable organization, true to its mandate to serve and protect the people,” he added.

Sobejana bows out of military service; Faustino assumes post

Maris Federez   •   August 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana relinquished his post in a Retirement and Change of Command Ceremony on Saturday (July 31).

An AFP statement released Saturday said Sobejana bowed out of service as he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56, after spending over 38 years in the military.

Sobejana who is a Medal for Valor recipient, has been replaced by LtGen. Jose Faustino, the current commander of the Joint Task Force Mindanao, the statement said.

“My tenure as the 55th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has truly been full of challenges and trials; but together with more than the 200,000-strong men and women of the AFP whose tenacity, strength, and heart have made us overcome all odds,” Sobejana said in his farewell speech.

He also expressed his respect and gratitude to all the personnel in the military forces for their invaluable service.

“I have only the highest respect and admiration for our soldiers who have, and continuously, dedicated the best years of their lives in the name of public service. Sa lahat ng sundalo ng ating Sandatahang Lakas, taas-noo at buong puso ang aking pasasalamat sa inyong walang katapat na serbisyo,” he added.

Sobejana spent most of his military career in Mindanao where he commanded different AFP units as he rose the ranks since graduating from the Philippine Military Academy in 1987.

Prior to his stint as the AFP Chief of Staff, Sobejana assumed the post of Army Commanding General and the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

In May 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte bestowed him the Award of Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Officer), for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service rendered to the Philippine government, particularly to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He received another Philippine Legion of Honor (Degree of Chief Commander) for “laudable and meritorious conduct in the performance of his duties as the 55th Chief of Staff,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, incoming AFP Chief of Staff LtGen. Faustino called on the men and women in the military to stay united and committed to providing service to the country.

“It is my belief that the true measure of a Filipino soldier is not in the badge or rank we wear, not about the position we attain or appointed to. It is the loyalty and integrity of every man and woman serving the AFP that will keep us going in the right direction,” Faustino said.

“As I embark on this new journey with each and every one of you belonging to Team AFP, allow me to say to every soldier, airman, sailor, and marine– let us stay positive on the course ahead, bind together as one family, commit with open minds, participate actively, work towards the attainment of our shared goals, develop good ideas and innovate to suit our domain,” he added.

Prior to his designation as AFP chief, Faustino was appointed as the Commander of JTF Mindanao in June, following a successful stint as the Acting Commanding General of the Philippine Army.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maringal” Class of 1988, he likewise had been Battalion and Brigade Commander in Western Mindanao particularly in Basilan and Sulu, the statement said.

4 more fatalities in Sulu C-130 crash identified – AFP

Robie de Guzman   •   July 30, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it has identified four more bodies of military personnel who perished in the C-130 crash in Sulu.

The AFP identified them as Sergeant Jelson Sadjail, Corporal Alhamin Salahuddin, Private First Class Alzid Hawrani, and Private First Class Nazer Albaracin.

The identified bodies were all from the Philippine Army, it added.

In total, the AFP said 33 cadavers have now been identified while 17 are still undergoing the “tedious” process of identification as most of the fatalities were burned beyond recognition.

“The AFP through the Western Mindanao Command has reached out to the loved ones of the identified personnel while their remains are being prepared for transport and proper burial,” the military said.

The C-130 plane crashed in Patikul, Sulu last July 4. It was carrying 96 passengers when the incident occurred.

More than 50 people died, including 3 civilians on the ground, and 46 were injured in the fiery crash.

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