BGen Arnel Dela Vega
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Oct 20, 2016- Abu Sayyaf members must surrender to preserve countless lives. This is the sentiment of soldiers in Sulu as the BaSulTa Sub-Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) and Intenational Monitoring Team (IMT) for the peace process visit Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) 4pm Wednesday and whole of Thursday respectively.
The ARMM BaSulTa Sub-RHRC led by Atty Edy Lyn Santiago conferred with JTFS officers on status of human rights awareness of troops and was assured of the compliance of soldiers on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law. JTFS officials cited the case of suspected ASG Pauji Asgari who was arrested last Tuesday. Asgari was treated well, brought to the hospital for medical check-up and was immediately given food.
The IMT on the other hand was led by Malaysian Maj. Gen. Datuk Wir Zamrose who conferred with JTFS and LGU officials on the status of peace process in the province.
Soldiers in Sulu are calling on the ASG to surrender in light of successive encounters which resulted to the death of many ASG members including the neutralization of the notorious Muktadil brothers and the arrest of Asgari by Army troops in Talipao, Sulu on Tuesday.
Soldiers said the arrest of Asgari is essentially a surrender since he did not put a fight. Troops of 41st Infantry Battalion pursuing a group of armed men apprehended Asgari on information of local residents and recovered an M16 assault rifle, ammunition, electric cords, combat pack, cellphone, hammock, motorcycle and Marine Battle Dress Attire.
Soldiers speaking in vernacular said “Its good he did not resist. He and his mother are now glad he is alive. We dont want anyone being killed but if he tried to shoot at us, we will have no choice but to shoot back”.
Asgari’s mother showed up a day after his arrest and thanked soldiers for their kind treatment on his son. JTFS officials assured her and all relatives of ASG that surrenderees will be treated well.
It may be recalled that AFP Chief of Staff, Gen. Ricardo Visaya made a call for the ASG to surrender to preserve lives and for them to have a new life. A week after, 21 ASG from Basilan surrendered.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, JTFS commander is echoing the same, “We are calling on the ASG to surrender and stop these kidnapings and all un-Islamic activities so that they may be given chance to live, atone for their crimes and be with their families”.
Reports from communities indicate that many ASG want to surrender but are being held and intimidated by their leaders saying they will be killed by soldiers if they surrender. However, authorities say that is far from truth and that is part of coercion and misinformation ASG leaders feed to their members.
Brig. Gen. Dela Vega said “The humane treatment of our soldiers to the arrested ASG is a proof of the commitment of our toops in respecting Human Rights and protecting the lives of others even those of criminals”.
“We are all losers in this war specially the victims and the people of Sulu. Our soldiers die, many more on the ASG are killed and those who suffer most are the victims and innocent people being displaced due to the atrocities of the ASG”, Brig. Gen. Dela Vega concluded.
Since July, a total of 36 ASG were killed in Sulu and scores were wounded while the AFP suffered 15 killed in action and 28 wounded in action.
The focused military operation launched by the AFP since July resulted to the rescue and recovery of 16 hostages while a total of 12 kidnap victims remain to be rescued.
Released by: Information Support Team, JTF Sulu
Message of Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega; Commander, Joint Task Force Sulu during the 39th Founding Anniversary of 45th Infantry (Gallant) Battalion, 16 Oct 2016, Talipao, Sulu.
“It is with deep pleasure, honor and privilege to greet and congratulate the officers and men of the 45th Infantry (Gallant) Battalion as you celebrate the founding Anniversary of your unit.
Forty one years ago 45IB was initially formed in Samar in the early part of 1975 by the directive of no less than President Ferdinand Marcos to General Fortunato Abat.
On O5 July 1977, the 45IB as a provisional battalion was activated and exactly 39 years ago, by 24 October of 1977, 45IB became a Regular Battalion of the 3rd Infanry Division.
Your battalion saw action in different places in the Philippines and involved in numerous operations from Samar in the Visayas, to Basilan and Zamboanga Peninsula in Mindanao then to Bicol Region, Ilocos Region, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley in Luzon then back to Mindanao in 2010 particularly in Maguindanao; and today you are here in Sulu.
Your battalion has seen the steady hands of numerous commanders from the very first one in the name of LTC WILFREDO DUBLIN; to then MAJOR VOLTAIRE GAZMIN who became Commanding General of the Philipine Army and later Secretary of National Defense; to the longest serving commander of 45IB COL AMADO ISIDRO whose two years and seven months of leadership earned 45IB the much coveted awards of Best Battalion in Operations in 1982 and Best in Administration in 1983 both at the Philippine Army level.
The young generation of commanders of 45IB contributed immensely in the success of your unit as seen in 2010 with the recovery of 42 High Powered Firearms in Maguindanao and your being Champion of the 6th Infantry Division’s Company Challenge and Squad Challenge under the leadership of then LTC MARVIN LICUDINE.
The 45IB became the 6ID Best OpCon Battalion in TRIAD operations in 2013 under LTC DONALD HONGITAN while in 2015 during the Mamasapano incident, your unit then under LTC ROMEO BAUTISTA, is one of the battalions who reinforced our beleaguered troops from the PNP SAF and you were instrumental in the rescue of 30 survivors and recovery of 44 Killed In Action and 10 Wounded In Action.
The officers and men of 45IB altogether steered your battalion to achieve and reach the status it has now as one of the primary fighting unit of the AFP now in Sulu to achieve another milestone in the colorful history of your unit.
I enjoin every member of 45IB now under the able leadership of LTC RHENANTE SALVADOR to continue the same aggressiveness, passion and zeal in doing your assigned tasks as you did before in the past.
Let the officers and men of 45IB personify your unit seal in serving our people particularly here in Sulu. May the horse head symbolizing strength and speedy action be your mantra in our quest to destroy lawless elements and rescue people held captives.
May your gallantry in action be protected by the shield which also symbolizes our commitment as protectors and defenders of our citizens and humanity.
May the laurel leaves pave the way for the much needed cooperation and collaboration between our troops and all stakeholders here in Sulu as we stand for the values and attitudes of noble men in uniform in pursuit of peace and goodwill for all.
As we celebrate the 39th year of the founding of your unit; and as a tribute to those members who recently paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving the country by laying down their precious lives, may I request everyone to rise as we acknowledge their names.
Our Salute to:
Pfc Roger Warde, August 2012, encounter in Datu Piang, Maguindanao
Pfc Randy Bacalso, February 2014, encounter in Datu Piang, Maguindanao
Pfc Jesus Tabije III, June 2014, encounter in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao
Pfc Arwin Gambol, October 2014, encounter in Datu Hofer, Maguindanao
Pfc Bryan Salazar, October 2014, encounter in Datu Hofer, Maguindanao
Pfc Jeffrey Carino, July 2016, encounter in Patikul Sulu.
Let us offer one minute of prayer for them.
May the heroism and sacrifice of those before us inspire everyone to serve with more passion and conviction to achieve our mission here in Sulu.
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Oct 4, 2016- Soldiers at the forefront of the relentless combat operations against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) in Sulu are undergoing continuous combat stress debriefing to cope with psychological rigors of their job.
Three companies from different battalions have so far undergone the combat stress debriefing being conducted by a steady flow of medical teams coming from the AFP Medical Center.
This is the third week of debriefing with medical teams composed of health professionals from various specializations with majority from the Psychological Health Department. Priests from the Chaplain Service are also part of the teams.
Two teams from AFP medical center have so far completed the three-week process and are set to be replaced by another team from Manila.
The combat stress debriefing is a mechanism to ensure the psychological health, morale and welfare of troops involved in highly dangerous combat operations. Such type of stress was first observed on American troops during the Vietnam War by medical personnel and was found out to be a type of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.
The debriefing aims to address possible cases of PTSD among troops, a sickness that is beyond superficial wounds common among soldiers, policemen and other law enforcers who have been to combat zones or some life threatening situations.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of JTF Sulu said, “Combat stress debriefing is part of the program of the AFP to take care of the health and welfare of troops involved in combat. The AFP provides a continuing healthcare program to our soldiers from the moment officers and troops get commissioned or enlisted until they retire from the service”.
Combat fatigue and battle stress debriefing are provided to our soldiers in view of their perilous mission. This is to address any possible problem or stress that may affect the performance; and medical and psychological health of soldiers assigned in combat zones.
Released by: Information Support Team, JTF Sulu
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Sep 30, 2016- Five soldiers wounded in different encounters against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were given medals by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a simple ceremony at Camp Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo 9am Friday.
Awarded with the Wounded Personnel Medal were 2Lt Joelimar Sulit, TSg Mario de Guzman Jr., Sgt Berhamin Jumdana, Pfc Deborah Paracuelles and Pvt Michael Andre Atega.
Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of JTF Sulu personally pinned the medals on the wounded troops who are recuperating at the Station Hospital.
“This is one way of recognizing the bravery and services of our troops in protecting the people of Sulu”, Brig. Gen. Dela Vega said.
Soldiers continue to scour suspected ASG lairs in Sulu to rescue the remaining kidnap victims. Thirteen hostages; six Indonesians, six Filipinos and one Norwegian have been rescued or released since the assumption of Pres Duterte and ordered an intensified focused military operations to destroy the ASG and rescue the remaining victims .
Five ASG including the notorious Muktadil brothers were killed in the latest operations this week in diferrent parts of Sulu.
Several ASG involved in the drug trade were also arrested in Zamboanga City and in Metro Manila by combined AFP-PNP forces.
Former hostages revealed that ASG members were usually high on drugs and were personally seen by them taking Shabu. Reports from line units indicate that drug money is being used by ASG to finance its daily operations in conducting criminal acts, terrorism and anti-Islamic activities.
POC:Col Rodrigo Gregorio / 09175595622 / Released by:Information Support Team, JTF Sulu
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Sep 28, 2016- Two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were killed while three more were wounded in two separate but connected successive encounters between Army troops and ASG in Panamao, Sulu early morning Wednesday.
A soldier, name withheld, was also slightly wounded by shrapnels and currently recuperating at Camp Bautista Hospital in Jolo. The first encounter transpired at 07:20am between an estimated 30 ASG and Bravo Company of 35th Infantry Battalion in Brgy Pugad Manaul, Panamao, Sulu where the two said ASG were killed and one soldier was wounded.
Troops recovered one body count while the other was carried by the ASG as seen by pursuing troops and revealed by civilians.
The second encounter occured at 9:05am between the same group of ASG against troops of Bravo Company, 10th Infantry Battalion in an adjacent Sitio in Brgy Pugad Manaul, Panamao, Sulu resulting to three ASG wounded as witnessed by pursuing troops.
The said ASG engaged by troops are reportedly holding some Malaysian and Indonesian hostages.
The wounded soldier was airlifted to Camp Bautista Station Hospital for treatment while the ASG member was brought to Sulu Provincial Police Office for processing and proper disposition so that the cadaver can be claimed by relatives for proper burial in accordance with their tradition.
This is the second successive day that troops engaged the ASG in Sulu. Yesterday the notorious Muktadil brothers of the ASG, Nixon and Brown were killed in an operation by troops in Sulu. Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu attributed the successive engagements to positive cooperation of local residents.
“Our troops will continue to pursue the terrorists until we deal a crippling blow to their ranks and leadership and rescue the remaining hostages”, Brig. Gen. Dela Vega concluded.
Salute to all our troops in Sulu!
Camp Bautista, Sulu, Sep 22, 2016-Another Indonesian kidnap victim was released in Sulu Thursday morning as troops continue intensified rescue efforts.
The released hostage identified thru his passport is 30 year-old Herman Bin Manggak. He is the sixth Indonesian freed from ASG captivity since President Duterte assumed office and ordered an intensified rescue effort.
Herman was officially turned over to military custody at 12nn by Sulu LGU and immediately taken to Camp Bautista hospital in Jolo for check-up and processing. Talking to interpreters, he asked for food and relayed how government troops nearly rescued him three times as they engaged the ASG in fierce gunbattles.
“The release of the victim is the result of relentless focused military operations combined with efforts of different sectors particularly LGU of Sulu and other stakeholders” Brig.Gen.Arnel Dela Vega, commander of Joint Taskforce Sulu said.
Several kidnap victims were successively rescued or released after the intensified rescue efforts and arrival of more troops in Sulu.
It may be recalled that Martina Yee who was kidnapped by armed men in Sirawai was rescued yesterday in Indanan Sulu by elements of 35th Infantry Battalion, only two days after her captivity; the fastest and successful rescue operation conducted on a kidnap victim by armed men before she can be further turned over to the ASG.
The swift rescue of Yee was attributed by authorities to a well-coordinated effort by AFP and PNP with the help of civilian populace from Sirawai to Sibuco and Zamboanga City to Sulu who informed and alerted troops on the presence of armed men.
Gen.Ricardo Visaya, the AFP Chief, commended troops for the success.
“Let me commend all the troops for a well-coordinated and incessant two-day rescue operation that led to the successful rescue of Martina Lyn Yee who was kidnapped in Sirawai, Zamboanga del Norte on 19 Sep 2016.
As your Chief of Staff, I am truly proud of this accomplishment, noting that this is the first time first time that we were able to intercept an eventual turn-over of a kidnap victim to the ASG due to our prompt action with the support from the PNP and local residents.
Your dedication in this accomplishment will be in the annals of the AFP’s history. Congratulations and keep up the good work!” Gen.Visaya said.
POC:Col Rodrigo Gregorio / 09175595622 / Released by: Information Support Tm, JTF Sulu
On the threat of terrosism and sudden spike of messages and social media posts pointing on specific targets of terrorists that tends to alarm people unnecessarily, Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, the Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu advises the people of Sulu.
“All information are being validated. The public is advised not to panic but be vigilant and alert. Report any suspicious individuals/groups or unattended bags or package to authorities. Do not touch or remove unattended packages.
The public is also advised to do their daily routine activities unless dire circumstances prevent them from doing such.
The aim of terrorists is to sow fear and panic by means of bloodshed, destruction and intimidation. If we subscribe to their threat even without them actually doing it, they succeeded in disturbing our way of life.
If you receive text or any information about supposed terror threat, send it to the AFP and PNP for validation. It is also wise not to spread text or any message that specifically details a supposed terroristic attack on a specific establishment as this may only be a ploy by some interest groups riding on the issue.
The fight against terror is everyone’s responsibility and we must unite against terrorism.
We hope this will help our people and the different communities. Rest assured that your soldiers and policemen are on the double finding bits and pieces of information in order to protect our communities.”
This is the appeal of Brig. Gen. Dela Vega in series of community gatherings with the latest in the Provincial Peace and Order Council attended by more than a hundred public officials, health workers, teachers, NGOs and other stakeholders called by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II 9am to 1230pm Wednesday.
POC: Col Rodrigo Gregorio, PIO, JTF Sulu 09175595622
Released by: Information Support Team, JTF Sulu