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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Harsh jungle life pushes Abu Sayyaf family to return to the fold of the law
By Rene V. Carbayas

ISABELA CITY, Basilan, Jan 26 (PIA) – They were notorious; thought to be fearless, brutal, and careless, but never exempted to human life and sufferings, especially for an outlaw.

The harsh jungle life, running for one’s life, evading the pursuit of government soldiers and a life of hiding and uncertainty for the future made this family realize that it is enough. Putting one’s life at risk every moment, every day is no different from the risk of returning to the fold of the law.

Sulaiman Sagindingan Kasaran alias Abujaid was quite tense as he narrated how he, as the head of the family decided to surrender. They have been battling the government forces in Al-barka town; especially the 18th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army for over five years and a number of his family has died.

“Pareho kaming talo dahil buhay ang ibinuwis namin (We all lose because lives were lost),” he said.

According to Kasaran, many army commanders had come and go to Al-barka but it is only under the leadership of LtCol Enerito D. Lebeco that the head of the Kasaran family saw the sincerity and goodness of a soldier with genuine intent to help them go back to the fold of law without killing them.

“He (Lebeco) came to our land. I did not recognize him at first. I did not know he was an army commander because he was wearing shorts and without any escort, he came to us,” Kasaran said in Filipino.

The sight of a man, unafraid and in humility had reached out for the outlaws was a life-changing experience for the Kasaran family patriarch. At this moment, he knew he could trust this man.

Six other Abu Sayyaf members of the Kasaran family surrendered with him, namely Marwin Asan Kasaran (alias Hajie), Derwin Asan Kasaran (alias Dikki), Halid Asan Kasaran (alias Nasirin Awwalin), Hadzmin Kuluman Kasaran (alias Ammin), Faisal Laudmin Kasaran (alias Issa/Ballie), and Salman Najallon Kasaran (alias Sat/Mhadz).

Sulaiman also thanked the local government units of Al-barka and the provincial government for the support given to the family in its desire to live a normal life. He, however, recognized that threats are still around but he said that he is not afraid to stay in their area because he knows the government will do everything in its power to protect them as civilians.

In a separate interview, Sulaiman revealed that he was an ex-army who went on AWOL (absence without leave) and that he got sick, later tried to return to service but was not granted. He did not, however, reveal why he and his family joined the ASGs except for economic reasons.

He said that their family is not engaged in brutality and beheadings. He does not allow his children and family to do such thing. He said they only do ‘pintakasi’, such as reinforcing the ASGs in its encounter with government forces. But this kind of life was not what he dreamt of for him and his family. Somehow, circumstances forced them to be part of the ASG.

Col. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, Joint Task Group Basilan Commander said that this so far the first time in military history that an ASG family voluntarily surrendered and decided to return to the fold of the law.

“Negotiations started in October until December 21 with a rido settlement. During this time the Kasaran family expressed the desire to surrender and return to normal life.

Col. Bautista said that this is part of the concerted efforts of Task Force Kasanyangan, headed by Basilan Gov Jum Akbar and ARMM Gov Mujiv Hataman with all local chief executives as members. The objective here is for them to lead the promotion of peace in Basilan.

“This proves that we can attain peace even without the use of firearms. We hope this event will encourage others to follow the Kasaran family in their desire for peace and security for the community,” he said.

The ASG members yielded three M16 rifles, one Cal .30 Garrand rifle, one M79 Gerenade Launcher and one Cal .45 Pistol, which were also surrendered to the army. The family also initially underwent custodial debriefing. Later, they will be endorsed to the ARMM Regional Governor for rehabilitation and integration into mainstream society.

The 104th Brigade Commander said that the ASG members realized that fighting the government and enduring hard life in the mountains is a lost cause. He said that the surrender was made possible through the help of the populace and local government of Ungkaya Pukan.

“The sincere coordination and passion of the government in delivering the message for peace and reconciliation on the ground made the pivotal role to convince the other ASG members to return to the fold of the law,” he said.

Meanwhile, MGen Gerardo F. Barrientos Jr, 1st Infantry “Tabak” Division Commander, PA and concurrent commander of Joint Task Group ZAMBASULTA lauded the efforts of the troops for a job well done. Further, he said that “surrender” is a clear victory for the people of Basilan who yearn for peace and desire to live lawfully and peacefully.