ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte sent medals and a PHP2-million cash reward to the troops behind the March rescue of four Indonesians from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Tawi-Tawi.
Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, flew to the province on Sunday and led the awarding ceremony at the covered court of the 2nd Marine Brigade headquarters in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao.
The Distinguished Navy Cross for distinguished heroism went to Col. Nestor Narag Jr., the Joint Task Force-Tawi-Tawi deputy commander during the rescue of the four Indonesians.
Riswanto Hayano, 27; Arizal Kastamiran, 29; and, Arsyad Dahalan, 41, the fishing boat skipper, were rescued on March 18 off Pasigan Island in South Ubian.
The last victim, Mohd Khairuldin, 15, was rescued March 21 in Kalupag Island, Languyan.
The group of five worked for a Malaysian fishing firm but were abducted by the ASG in the waters between Tambisan and Kuala Meruap, Lahad Datu, Sabah, close to the Philippine sea border, in January 2020.
One of their companions was killed while trying to escape during an ASG-military encounter in Patikul, Sulu in September 2021.
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said Narag orchestrated a comprehensive fleet-Marine operation and provided command and control to the operating troops, who engaged the ASG bandits, resulting in the death of ASG leader Majan Sahidjuan (alias Apo Mike) and two of his followers.
Meanwhile, the Silver Cross Medal (non-combat decoration for distinguished heroism or achievement) was awarded to the Special Intelligence Team under the 2nd Marine Brigade that provided timely information leading to the successful conduct of focused military and combat clearing operations in Kalupag Island, Languyan and Tandungan Island, Tandubas, both in Tawi-Tawi, on March 19 to 24.
Sobejana congratulated the awardees and lauded the hard work and dedication of the Marine troops in accomplishing their mission.
“We have to make ourselves happy all the time so that we become more productive. I always translate happiness into productivity regardless of where we are,” Sobejana said.
“To the commanders, let us always strike a good balance on mission accomplishment and the morale and welfare of our soldiers,” he added.
Sobejana handed over Duterte’s PHP2-million cash reward to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 for the neutralization of Sahidjuan. (PNA)