Zero kidnapping incident in Basilan since 2016, security execs say
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Zero kidnapping incident in Basilan since 2016, security execs say

John Unson (Philstar.com) - March 6, 2020 - 5:01pm

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — It was the peace efforts of the local communities and not military or police interventions that catalyzed a zero kidnapping incident in Basilan since 2016, top security officials said.

The feat was mentioned in Thursday’s state of the province address of the now second-termer Gov. Jim Salliman in Isabela City in Basilan.

Salliman also underscored the continuing collaboration among local sectors in furthering their provincial security initiatives since 2016 that weakened the Abu Sayyaf in the island province.

The provincial state of the region address, or SOPA, is facilitated annually by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, presently chaired by Vice Gov. Yusop Alano.

“These law and order achievements can be a good template that can be duplicated in other provinces,” Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said Friday.

Sobejana, while a junior Army officer, was maimed in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf forces in one of the hinterlands in Basilan in the 1980s, a fierce combat engagement that earned for him the vaunted Medal of Valor for gallantry.

A quick check at the intelligence division of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Camp Pendatun in Parang, Maguindanao showed that there was indeed no local kidnapping incident in Basilan since Salliman was first elected to office in 2016.

Brig. Gen. Marni Marcos, director of PRO-BAR, said Friday he was elated with the improvements in the security situation in Basilan.

Marcos said credit for Basilan’s not having any local Abu Sayyaf-instigated kidnapping since 2016 should go to the local communities.

The Abu Sayyaf in Basilan had, for almost two decades, abducted more than 200 people in one attack after another in the province and outside, held captive in the dense jungles in the center of the island province, the Sampinit Complex.

The Sampinit Complex is now traversed by a highway, a high-ticket government project designed to boost the productivity of farming communities thriving along the route. 

“Security problems are best addressed 'bayanihan' style. We are grateful that LGUs in Basilan are doing their homework very actively, very religiously,” Sobejana said.

He said more than 200 Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan have returned to the fold of law in batches in the past three years through the domestic peace initiatives of provincial and municipal officials.

The WestMinCom even assisted leaders in Basilan facilitate the recent study tours of the now reforming former Abu Sayyaf members to regions outside of Mindanao for them to fell what life is in peaceful areas, according to Sobejana.

In his SOPA Thursday, Salliman emphasized his gratitude to his constituent-leaders who have had direct hostile confrontations with the Abu Sayyaf that pressured many of its members in the province to surrender and pledge allegiance to the government.

“We have maintained and sustained these outcomes not just because of the strong political will that this administration is deliberately pursuing, but also because of the solid support of so many groups and individuals,” Salliman said.

Sobejana, citing reports from the 104th Brigade based in Basilan, said there are less than 20 Abu Sayyaf bandits left in the jungles of Basilan.

He said is optimistic they will come out too via the backdoor diplomatic efforts of the provincial government.  

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