Abducted Hyrons couple rescued from ASG in Sulu

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2019   •   534

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday confirmed that British national Alan Hyrons and his Filipino wife, Wilma, have been rescued from their abductors in Parang, Sulu.

AFP Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesperson Major Arvin John Encinas said the couple were rescued from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) at past 8 a.m. Monday after a series of armed encounter with the military.

The AFP said the couple was freed from captivity after their abductors were forced to give them up and withdraw from their location due to military focus operations.

The military earlier said that around five members of the ASG were killed in two separate clashes in Sulu over the weekend. Among those killed was Sibih Pisih, an alleged ASG subgroup leader under Radullan Sahiron who had a pending warrant of arrest for the massacre of 22 civilian in Talipao, Sulu in 2014.

“Doon sa tuloy-tuloy na mga operations na talagang nagpursuit po tayo at kanina nga ay narescue po natin ang mag-asawang ito,” Encinas said.

He added that no ransom was paid for the freedom of the Hyrons couple who was taken from a resort in Tukuran in Zamboanga del Sur on Oct. 4.

“Walang ransom involved considering naka-stay po tayo sa ating policy na no ransom policy at the same narescue po ng ating mga kasundaluhan,” he said.

The rescued couple will undergo debriefing and interview before they will be released from the military custody. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

Duterte names PH Army commanding general Gapay as next AFP chief

Robie de Guzman   •   July 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has designated Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay as the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

According to a document addressed to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Duterte signed Gapay’s appointment letter on Tuesday, July 28.

Gapay is the current commanding general of the Philippine Army.

His designation will take effect on August 3.

Gapay will replace AFP chief General Felimon Santos Jr. who is leaving the service as he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 on August 4.

Duterte to meet with AFP, PNP commanders following Jolo incident

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte is set to fly to Mindanao to meet with top officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the wake of the killing of four soldiers by policemen in Jolo, Sulu last Monday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Thursday.

Año, however, did not disclose the date and place of the president’s upcoming meeting with police and military commanders.

The Interior Secretary, who supervises the PNP, also said that Duterte may possibly talk to nine policemen involved in the shooting of soldiers.

“The president is going to the south to talk to our PNP and AFP commanders, sabi ko nga kung may time pa siya ay kakausapin niya yung mga suspek,” Año said.

Malacañang said the president was saddened by the incident between the police and military officers.

He has also ordered for the National Bureau of Investigation to expedite the release of its probe findings.

The Palace also denied that the incident is the result of the alleged state-sponsored extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration as claimed by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

“Hindi po natin kinukunsinte ang patayan kaya nga po masinsinang imbestigasyon ang ginagawa natin dito sa pagpatay sa 4 na sundalo sa hukbong sandatahan,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Año echoed Roque’s statement as he assured that those responsible for the Jolo incident will be held accountable.

“Extrajudicial killing is not the policy of this government and the Sulu incident, we will exact justice and make sure those responsible shall be accountable, umasa kayo diyan. Ako mismo ang personal na nag-follow up ng kaso,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

Pangilinan seeks Senate probe on fatal shooting of 4 soldiers in Jolo

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan is calling for an inquiry into the killing of four soldiers by local policemen in Jolo, Sulu.

“Nakakabahala ang balitang ito. Ngayon pa lang na hindi pa batas ang anti-terror bill, may nangyayari nang ganito. Ano na lang ang laban ng ordinaryong tao?” Pangilinan said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Monday afternoon, June 29, four members of the Philippine Army were fatally shot by police officers some meters away from the Jolo police station.

The Army said the four soldiers were on an official mission and were tracking suspected suicide bombers  when they were accosted by the local police.

The soldiers, who had been wearing plain clothes, were said to have introduced themselves to the policemen. The cops allegedly told them to go with them to a nearby police station for identity verification.

Initial police report said that as their team and Army officers approached the police station, the soldiers’ vehicle allegedly sped off, prompting a car chase.

Police said they only defended themselves when the soldiers opened fire.

The Army disputed this claim, saying the soldiers did not try to escape and never fired a single shot towards police officers based on eye-witness accounts of two civilians and of a motorcycle-riding soldier who was part of the operation trailing the soldiers’ vehicle.

Pangilinan said the police and military have different versions of what happened, and an “independent and impartial” Senate probe will “help bring out the truth.”

“This incident is disturbing because it appears that the police are quick in pulling the trigger without careful judgment. If they can do this to their fellow uniformed men, how much more to the ordinary civilians who are unarmed and defenseless?” the senator said.

Nevertheless, Pangilinan called on military and police ground commanders to “rein in their men to preserve peace and avert escalation of tension between the armed personnel.”

“We should be going after the common enemy — terrorists, drug lords, armed groups, and in this time of the pandemic, COVID — not against each other,” Pangilinan said.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier said they have requested the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an impartial probe into the incident.

The nine policemen involved in the incident, as well as the chief of Jolo police station have also been ordered relieved from their posts pending investigation.

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