2 hostages escape as military battles Abus
Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) - August 20, 2015 - 10:00am

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines  – Two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group were rescued after they escaped amid heavy clashes with the military in Indanan town, Sulu late Wednesday afternoon.

Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero said SN2 Gringo Villaruz and SN1 Rod Allain Pagaling were separately found yesterday in Barangay Buanza around 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively.

They were immediately taken to the Camp Teodulfo Bautista Trauma Hospital for check-up and initial tactical debriefing before being flown to this city for processing.

Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS) public affairs officer Capt. Antonio Bulao said the two were able to escape during the gunfight on Wednesday between JTGS elements and around 100 Muslim militants, including some members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“Apparently at the height of the encounter, the two coastguard men were able to flee,” he said.

The two men did not know of the other’s escape until they met at the hospital, he said.

Around 15 Abu Sayyaf members were killed during the clash and five bodies were recovered at the encounter site, said the WestMinCom chief.

“We believe one of the sub-leaders was also killed. We are still identifying the bodies,” Guerrero said. “And as I speak, there is ongoing operation in Sulu.”

Validation is now being done to confirm reports that among the Abu Sayyaf fatalities were sub-commander Alden Bagadi and his cousin Arafat.

Guerrero said they received unconfirmed reports that other hostages also managed to escape.

Based on their accounts, he said the Abu Sayyaf still holds less than 10 captives.

Among them are Dutch national Ewold Horns, Malaysian Thien Nyuk Fun, Cambodian Bernard Then Ted Fen and Japanese Toshio Ito.

The militant group also holds captive three-year-old Ace Jay Garban and Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Guerrero said they are continuously coordinating with the police and local officials, and the tactical information to be provided by the two rescued PCG men would help the military offensive.

He assured the public that their primary concern remains the safety of the hostages.

No ransom

Guerrero said the militants they encountered were the same group responsible for the beheading of Aliguay Island village chief Rodolfo Boligao last Aug. 11.

The two PCG men, who were detailed at the ports, and Boligao were forcibly taken by the Abu Sayyaf on May 4 in Aliguay Island off Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte. They were taken to Sulu with their abductors demanding a P1-million ransom for each.

Pagaling’s brother, Rod Ullyses, said Abu Sayyaf men contacted them through his sister Carlota Joy’s phone to ask for ransom.

He said they initially asked for P200 million, which went down to P100 million, P10 million and P3 million but the Pagaling family insisted they could not afford the amount.

PCG spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo gave assurance that no ransom was paid for Villaruz and Pagaling.

Balilo noted that had ransom been paid, there would have been no casualties on the side of the Abu Sayyaf.

PCG commandant Adm. Rodolfo Isorena expressed thanks to the military troops and local officials who helped bring to safety the two PCG men.

Isorena immediately gave instructions to bring Villaruz and Pagaling from Sulu to the PCG station in Zamboanga. From there, the two would be flown to Manila.

Pagaling’s family is set to fly to Manila today.

Malacañang yesterday hailed the Armed Forces for the successful rescue of two PCG men.– With Evelyn Macairan, Gerry Lee Gorit, Delon Porcalla, Jaime Laude

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