New, larger anti-terror task force for Basilan, Sulu launched

John Unson - Philstar.com
New, larger anti-terror task force for Basilan, Sulu launched
Personnel of all military units in Basilan were made automatic members of the new Task Force Orion during its symbolic launching on Oct. 2, 2023 at the headquarters of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY — The anti-terror task forces in Basilan and Sulu that neutralized more than 500 Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the past seven years had been deactivated, replaced with a lone but bigger peacekeeping contingent covering both provinces.

Lt. General Steve Crespillo, commander of the military’s Western Mindanao Command and Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, who is at the helm of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, separately announced on Tuesday the activation of the Task Force Orion that would cover Basilan and Sulu.

Luzon led on Monday the folding of the Task Force Basilan banner in a symbolic rite at their headquarters in Barangay Tabiawan in Isabela City in the island province.

The anti-terror and other security missions of Task Force Orion, composed of military units under WestMinCom, shall also span through Tawi-Tawi, according to Crespillo.

Records from the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and the WestMinCom in Zamboanga City indicate that the now defunct Task Force Basilan, the office of Gov. Jim Salliman and his constituent-mayors and units of PRO-BAR in the province had together secured the surrender via backchannel dialogues of 393 Abu Sayyaf members and supporters since 2016.

Salliman and Mayor Roderick Furigay of Lamitan City, one of two cities in Basilan, had committed support for the peacekeeping missions of the Task Force Orion.

“It is our duty, as elected government officials, to flex our authority in enforcing law and order in our communities,” Furigay, who, along with Salliman, had worked out the surrender of 43 Abu Sayyaf members and sympathizers from across Lamitan City’s more than 40 barangays in the past six years.

BARMM Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo, chairperson of PRO-BAR’s multi-sector Regional Advisory Group, said he will compel his subordinate provincial officials to help connect the newly-organized Task Force Orion to local executives in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The office Sinarimbo is overseeing BARMM’s special program for rehabilitation of former violent religious extremists and bandits, the Tulong ng Gobyernong Nagmamalasakit, also known as the Project Tugon.

In the past eight months, the Project Tugon provided more than 600 former members of the Abu Sayyaf, the Dawlah Islamiya and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters with socio-economic and humanitarian interventions needed to hasten their reintegration to mainstream society.

Crespillo has directed all senior military officials in provinces covered by the newly-established Task Force Orion to embark on dialogues with officials of local government units for them to fully understand the deeper intricacies of its peacekeeping and law enforcement goals.

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