THE Abu Sayyaf has suffered another blow to its ranks, as six bandits have separately surrendered amid the continued focused military operation against them in the province of Sulu, officials said Friday, July 26.
Lieutenant Colonel Gerald Monfort, Joint Task Force Sulu spokesperson, said one of the six Abu Sayyaf bandits surrendered Tuesday, July 23, while the other five surrendered Wednesday, July 24.
Monfort said the bandits turned over three caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle when they surrendered to Brigadier General Francisco Ariel Felicidario III, Army's 11th Infantry Division assistant commander.
The Abu Sayyaf surrenderers revealed they were forced to surrender out of fear from the continuous and intensified combat operations and the declining support from the civilian populace, said Monfort.
He said several bandits are now disillusioned with the Abu Sayyaf hierarchy who have deceived them to become bandits in the guise of a religious front.
He added that the Abu Sayyaf surrenderers also revealed that many of their members are just awaiting proper timing to escape.
Monfort said two of the six Abu Sayyaf surrenderers aged 20 and 19 revealed they were lured to join the organization when they were still 11 and 13 years old, respectively.
He said they also revealed that they have accounted 14 exploited Muslim minors (aged nine to 15) who were with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) at the time of their escape.
The Abu Sayyaf surrenderers were immediately brought to the Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Jolo, Sulu, for medical check-up, added Monfort.
They will be registered to the Government's Assistance Program for former rebels to receive benefits and to be reintegrated back into the society to live normal lives.
Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr., Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the Abu Sayyaf is now feeling the pressure of the government's anti-terror campaign.
"The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the entire peace-loving Tausug community have united to end the ASG problem in Sulu. Hence, I am confident that our mandate to crush them down by end of this year will materialize," Vinluan said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has given the military until December this year to destroy the ASG. (SunStar Philippines)