ZAMBOANGA CITY – The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has accorded honors to the troops behind the successful rescue of a Filipino-American taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in Zamboanga del Norte.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of Westmincom, led the awarding ceremony Thursday at the headquarters of the 42nd Infantry Battalion (IB) in Barangay Doña Cecilia, Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte.
Vinluan conferred a Gold Cross Medal to First Lieutenant Jessie Jun Ebalan of the 42IB’s Bravo Company “for his conspicuous courage and gallantry in action as the commanding officer of the operating troops” who rescued Rex Triplitt, 64.
Vinluan also conferred the Military Merit Medal to each of the 11 enlisted personnel under the command of Ebalan.
The troops led by Ebalan rescued Triplitt following a clash around 10:20 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Pisa Itom, Sirawai, when soldiers chanced upon some five ASG bandits holding Triplitt captive.
On September 16, Triplitt on his motorcycle with his 24-year-old wife, Celsa Maani, were on their way home to Barangay Piacan when he was snatched by the bandits clad in fatigue uniforms.
In the commotion, Triplitt’s wife managed to escape and asked for help from barangay officials while the ASG bandits fled with Triplitt.
Lt. Col. Leon Onggao Jr., 42IB commander, said pursuit operations were immediately launched after Triplitt was seized to prevent the abductors from leaving the Zamboanga Peninsula. (PNA)