Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega

Soldiers to ASG: surrender and live; Human Rights, IMT visit Sulu

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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

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Soldiers undergo combat stress debriefing in Sulu

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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

Wounded soldiers in Sulu receive medals, rescue efforts continue

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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

Sulu troops extend Eid’l Adha greetings, soldiers’ hospital blessed

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Camp Bautista, Sulu – Troops in Sulu greet all Muslims and Christians alike a Happy Eid’l Adha as Muslims around the world gather and celebrate.

This is the message of solidarity of troops as mass is celebrated Sunday during the blessing of a newly constructed hospital inside Camp Bautista.

The newly constructed station hospital is expected to enhance the survival of wounded troops and widen the medical care that can be given to soldiers and their families while stationed in Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, Commander of Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) said, “Soldiers in Sulu and those assigned generally in Mindanao have learned to understand and respect the religion and culture of Moros”.

“We extend our sincere desire for a peaceful Eid’l Adha and we again appeal to the people of Sulu for their continued cooperation to ensure the safety of all members of the community” Brig. Gen. dela Vega stated.

The ongoing rescue efforts of kidnap victims in Sulu have been intensified since the order of President Duterte last August after a local Muslim Jolo resident, Patrick James Almodovar was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) after the Family of the 18 year old Almodovar failed to raise the P1,000,000 ransom.

The President visited troops a few weeks back while the AFP Chief of Staff, Gen Ricardo Visaya visited soldiers in Jolo five times with the latest on Saturday.

The focused military operations to destroy the ASG and rescue the hostages took the lives of 15 soldiers and 27 were wounded in Sulu while three were killed and one wounded in Basilan totalling 18 killled in action and 28 wounded in action.

Atleast 32 ASG were killed in Sulu in the ongoing focused military operations while 27 were killed in Basilan totalling 59 ASG dead and scores wounded.

POC: Col Rodrigo Gregorio / 09175595622

Released by: Information Support Team, JTF Sulu