By PNA and Mars W. Mosqueda Jr.
One of the hunters of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Radullan Sahiron has confirmed the willingness of the bandit chief to surrender due to old age, fatigue, and incessant military pressure.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, disclosed this Wednesday. “There is no definite date yet for his surrender but he has expressed willingness to surrender and as reported to us, he is weak, tired and weary due to their constant movement from one place to another as our focused military operation against them is unceasing due to our constant rotation of our forces,” said Sobejana in Filipino.
While Sahiron has already sent surrender feelers, Lt. Col. Adolfo Escuelas, military intelligence battalion head the Central Command (Centcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, disclosed yesterday that Abu Sayyaf members who are still at large in Bohol are now tired and very hungry, and most of them are injured.
Sobejana declined to identify the ASG chief’s emissary but said the latter is a close and respected friend of the bandit chieftain.
He also declined to give additional details as efforts are still ongoing to ensure that Sahiron’s surrender will materialize.
“We believe that once Radullan surfaces (and surrenders), his followers and other (leaders) will follow,” the military official added.
Should this develop, 70 percent of the ASG problem will be solved, the Joint Task Force Sulu commander stressed.
One of the conditions set by the ASG leader is that the Philippine government will not turn him over to the US government.
Sahiron is the leading figurehead of the ASG in Sulu after most of the founding leaders of the group were killed. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has set a $1-million reward for the capture of Sahiron.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander, first broke the news of Sahiron’s plan to surrender last week.
Sobejana said that one of the conditions set by the government is that the ASG chief should also convince his followers to surrender also.
Since President Duterte ordered the military to finish off the bandit group in six-month period, the total number of Abu Sayyaf members who have surrendered has reached 16. The deadline will lapse on June 30. Over 40 Abu Sayyaf members have been killed in the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi since January.
Meanwhile, Escuelas said the eight militants in Bohol, including Boholano Joselito Milloria, alias Alih, no longer carry backpacks because they have become too week from being constantly on the run. They were identified as Joselito Milloria, certain alias “Richard,” alias “Ubayda,” alias “Poy,” alias “Dah,” alias “Saad,” and alias “Um Amra.”
The military welcomed the P1-million reward offered by President Duterte for the arrest of eight Abu Sayyaf members.
Bohol remains on red alert as of Thursday, the second day of the meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Panglao Island.
Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto urged fishermen in the coastal towns of Bohol to join authorities in keeping an eye on suspected Abu Sayyaf members.
“Our fishermen will be our watchdogs. They should be able to participate in the defense of the province,” Chatto told reporters.
Sea assets of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) are also patrolling Bohol to secure the summit meeting, its spokesman, Commander Armand Balilo, said. He said the deployment of maritime patrol also aims to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its efforts against members of local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in Inabanga town.
In Cebu, security has been tightened in ports, with authorities strictly checking the baggage of leaving and arriving passengers. (With reports from Raymund F. Antonio and Francis T. Wakefield)