Government troops succeeded in ridding Bohol of the Abu Sayyaf Group in 33 days, but have to brace for possible retaliation by the bandits.
The threat, however, may not directly be launched on Bohol, but in adjacent areas.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Central Command (CentCom) and the Police Regional Office (PRO)-7 in Cebu now brace for ASG threat in Badian and Dalaguete.
This is based on the UK travel advisory against visiting these areas in Cebu.
PRO-7 regional director, Chief Superintendent Noli Taliño, admitted that the ASG threat in Bohol prior to the killing of the last two stragglers on Monday was also felt in the neighboring provinces of Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Siquijor.
Both the PRO-7 and the AFP will continue securing Bohol through pre-emptive measures as the government forces to prevent any repeat of the ASG infiltration in Bohol. Security forces will continue implementing the three-tierred strategy, especially in public areas of convergence,where bomb detection measures are added to the usual procedures.
The Philippine Coast Guard will continue patrolling the borders of Bohol and intelligence information gathering will proceed regarding the activities of suspected ASG sympathizers linked to the bandits’ infiltration in Bohol.
Government forces also intend to block any possible spill over of ASG threat in Badian and Dalaguete even if the actual presence of the bandits in these areas is still being verified, taking the UK advisory into consideration.
In a joint statement on Monday, Taliño and AFP CentCom commander, LGen. Oscar Lactao, declared that “Bohol is now considered cleared of ASG elements”.
This is after the killing of Abu Asis and Abu Ubayda, the last two ASG members who landed in Bohol left straggling until the afternoon of May 15.
Joselito Melloria- -a native of sitio Ilaya in barangay Napo, Inabanga- -brought 10 ASG comrades to Bohol on board three bancas.
They arrived barangay Napo, Inabanga on April 10 and the first clash ensued early morning the following day after Melloria’s neighbors reported the presence of armed men to their village head.
Mouamar Askali or Abu Rami, the notorious ASG sub-leader known for kidnapping was killed during the Inabanga encounter, along with Alyas Abu Sufyan, Edimar Isnain, and another member. Sufyan whose body was found during the clearing operation a few hours after the firefight, was a bomb expert, according to AFP intel network.
Melloria or Alyas Alih was killed in the first round of the April 22 encounter in barangay Bacani, Clarin.
His other comrades- -alyas Richard, Alyas Poy, Alyas Dah, and Alyas Um Amra- -were killed in the second round of the encounter on that day in Caboy, Clarin.
The boatman, Saad Samad Kiram, was captured in Tubigon early morning on May 4, but was killed the following day when his escorts cornered him after he allegedly fled while being allowed to defecate as he requested upon reaching an area in barangay Cabawan in Tagbilaran City as he was being transported from Camp Dagohoy to Bohol District Jail that time.
Abu Ubayda and Alyas Asis were killed in Calape on Monday after hiding for five days in a cave covered by a thick mangrove area in Pangangan Island.
At 12 p.m. on May 15, the two left the house of the Tuloy family which they held hostage since Friday, based on the testimony of Councilor Rading Sarsuelo of Barangay Lawis in Pangangan.
The bandits then immediately fled using a stolen motorcycle.
Ubayda reportedly held the motorcycle’s driver at gunpoint while Asis commandeered the vehicle.
While travelling, the suspects were flagged down at a security checkpoint leading to the gun battle between security forces and the suspects.
Ubayda was killed while Asis managed to flee that moment.
“In a joint pursuit operation by government forces, at about 5:30 p.m., Abu Asis was killed in an encounter with government security forces in Bohol,” according to the joint statement of PRO-7 and AFP CentCom.
It is further narrated in the joint statement that “the suspect was spotted at Sitio San Vicente in barangay Lawis, about 100 meters away from the earlier encounter site that resulted to the death of Abu Ubayda. Abu Asis resisted arrest and chose to shoot it out with the government troops resulting to his death. A cal. 45 pistol with inserted magazine containing four ammunitions was found in his possession”.
Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Matanguihan, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, echoed the declaration of AFP CentCom and PRO-7 that “Bohol is now cleared of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who infiltrated the province last month through Inabanga town”.
Matanguihan congratulated all Boholanos who helped resolve the Abu Sayyaf infiltration and now the crisis is finally over because none of the bandits who came is left here.
Matanguihan also said that both Ubayda and Asis were together after the clash in Clarin on April 22.
Reports indicated that Asis was shot dead by Special Weapons and Tactics operatives following a tussle with a villager.
The man identified as Crisanto Bancore reportedly saw Asis unarmed prompting him to engage the bandit in hand-to-hand combat.
Asis was reportedly flushed out of a cemetery by a military intelligence unit forcing him to move towards a residential area where he was seen by Bancore.