Sulu Army commander sacked
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - April 27, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines –  A senior Army officer leading the military operation against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu has been relieved following his reported resignation over operational disagreements with his superiors.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado was replaced by Col. Jose Faustino Jr. as commander of the Army’s 501st Brigade, a key Army unit directly involved in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the island province.

Arrojado’s relief came after last Monday’s beheading of John Ridsdel, one of two Canadians and two others held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf since September last year.

Arrojado was earlier stripped of his command as overall commander of the Joint Task Group-Sulu (JTGS), a move that removed him of operational control over all military units engaged in fighting the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

“For the last 18 months, he led the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the island of Jolo. Army officers usually serve a minimum of one year and six months in major positions to complete their billet requirements,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said, explaining why Arrojado was replaced.

Padilla, however, belied reports that Arrojado has resigned his position, stressing the military manual prohibits the resignation of an officer from his assignment unless he is being relieved of his post.

In Arrojado’s case, he is being replaced not because of the Ridsdel beheading but as part of a routine movement within the military where officers are reassigned to another position, Padilla said.

“According to the Army manual, no army officer, aside from major position, can resign because it is covered by orders. Everything is covered by orders. It’s written in the order that an officer signed, during an assumption of command, that he will only relinquish his post when properly relieved,” Padilla said.

There were reports that Arrojado was so disappointed that he resigned his position after figuring in a shouting match with his superior officer, Maj. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, commander of the 1st Infantry Division. Barrientos earlier replaced Arrojado as Joint Task Force Sulu commander.

The shouting match, according to sources, was triggered by disagreements between the two officers over the Samal hostage crisis setback with the execution of Ridsdel.

Three other Samal hostages, aside from 14 Indonesians and four Malaysians being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf, are Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstand and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor.

The bandits, asking for P300 million ransom for each of the Samal victims, issued a final ultimatum that they would executive one of the captives if their ransom demand was not met earlier this week.  

Arrojado reportedly dismissed the Abu Sayyaf ultimatum and took it upon himself to rescue the hostages at all cost despite dissenting opinions of his superiors, who in turn aired a different approach in solving the crisis, including the conduct of discreet negotiations with the bandits.

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