CALAPE— Sleep has come easy for Alexander Cuabo and his family now that the two remaining members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are dead.
“We can sleep well now because all ASG members have been neutralized,” said Cuabo, 57, and a resident of Barangay Looc, Pangangan Island, Calape town.
Fishermen went fishing on Tuesday morning, a day after the killing of the two remaining bandits. Some residents went to the beach to swim.
Life on the island of Pangangan has slowly returned to normal following the death of Abu Ubayda and Alias Asis, the last of the 11 Abu Sayyaf members who tried to enter Bohol through Barangay Napo in Inabanga town on April 10.
The two were killed in a shootout with the police on May 15 after surviving two separate clashes with government troops on April 11 and April 22 that killed seven of their colleagues including leader Abu Rami and their local guide, sub-leader Joselito Melloria.
“Life on the island is back to normal although the presence of the police there remains. We still conduct police visibility and mobile patrol,” said Senior Inspector Cresente Gurrea, Calape police chief.
Cuabo said he and his neighbors used to stay awake at night after they learned that the two Abu Sayyaf members reached their island by stealing a paddle boat.
They were afraid that the bandit group might hostage them out of desperation since the government troops were hot on their trail.
Even their fiesta last week was affected, said Cuabo.
“The fiesta was so quiet. It was better to kill a snake because it would create a little noise,” said Cuabo.
Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto said it was the residents’ vigilance that enabled authorities to track down the bandits and neutralize them.
“We laud our people’s vigilance in providing information to our law enforcement authorities without which tracking of the bandits would have been very difficult,” Chatto said.
Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Matanguihan, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, said Bohol is now cleared of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits.
“This crisis is finally over,” said Matanguihan. “Now, we can finally say that nothing was left of the terrorists who went to Bohol,” he added.
Alias Ubayda and Alias Asis were spotted on May 8 in Barangay Candungao, a hinterland village in San Isidro town, at least 17 km from Barangay Tanawan in Tubigon town.
The two were hiding in the forests and thick vegetation of San Isidro.
According to Capt. Jojo Mascariñas, spokesman of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, they were able to survive in the forest of Bohol which is abundant with coconut trees and other edible fruits.
But he added they had difficulty getting out of the province because they didn’t know Bohol’s topography.
“They just kept on avoiding the people and would go where their feet would take them,” he added.
The hinterlands of Clarin, Tubigon and Inabanga has a lot of coconuts, bananas and several fruit-bearing trees that could provide food for the stragglers.
They could drink water from the springs and rivers in the areas.
Mascariñas said Kiram survived by eating coconut meat for many days.
“Our body can survive as long as there is water and food that contains sugar,” he added.
Early morning on May 11, several island residents spotted the two men paddling a stolen boat from Sitio Abucayan in Barangay Liboron, still in Calape.
The villagers immediately reported the sightings to authorities.
Checkpoints were set up the following day in the seven barangays on Pangangan Island.
By the crack of dawn on Friday, government troops were already seen on the island’s Barangays Kahayag and Lawis.
Rubber boats from the Philippine Navy roved the waters surrounding the island while helicopters hovered at night to prevent the ASG members’ escape.
The bandits were believed to hide in a mangrove forest preserve connected by a four-kilometer causeway to mainland Calape town.
At around 7 a.m. on May 11, Hilario “Baludoy” Toloy, 76, and his 12-year-old son went near the mangroves to look for seashells in Barangay Kahayag, Pangangan Island.
Little did they know that Abu Ubayda and Alias Asis were hiding in a small cave called “Kastila Cave” which was covered by mangrove trees.
The father and son were held hostage by the bandits who asked for food because they were starving.
To ensure that Toloy would return after going home to get rice and “inun-unan” (fish stewed in vinegar), the bandits kept his son.
At home, Toloy told his wife about what had just happened.
His wife then reported the matter to the village chief and authorities while Toloy returned to the bandits.
After Ubayda and Asis finished eating, the Toloys were released.
Authorities later found near the cave four coconuts, a string, pieces of small wood and jackets — believed to be owned by the bandits.
Meanwhile, the two fled to Barangay Lomboy where Asis reportedly commandeered a motorcycle.
While traveling, the bandits were flagged down at a security checkpoint. The two turned around and were chased by government troops.
They then split up.
Ubayda, who was armed with an M-16 rifle, tried to go back to the mangrove forest but was met by a 70-year-old man identified only as Lolo Peryong who was cleaning his yard.
Gurrea said that instead of running away, the elderly took his bolo and tried to attack Ubayda.
But Peryong was overpowered by the much younger Ubayda who slashed the farmer with his own bolo and hit him with the rifle.
Peryong was rushed to a hospital while Ubayda was killed moments later after he was cornered by government troops who repeatedly shot him in the head, ripping off his face.
The military confirmed that the fatality was Ubayda because of his wedding ring where the name of his wife was engraved.
A few hours later, Asis was killed at least 200 meters from where Ubayda lay dead.
At about 10 a.m. on May 12, Ubayda and Asis, like their ASG comrades slain in Inabanga and Clarin towns, were buried without a ceremony outside the Calape Municipal Cemetery in keeping with the Islam tradition of burying the dead within 24 hours of their death.
Incidentally, their burial site is just a few meters away from where Special Weapons and Tactics operative PO2 Rey Anthony Nazareno was laid to rest.
Nazareno was among the four government troops who were killed in the encounter in Barangay Napo, Inabanga.
APRIL 10, 2017- 11 Abu Sayyaf members including their sub-leader Joselito Melloria slipped into Bohol on board three kumpits (two- engine motorboats) in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town, for a kidnapping and terror mission.
APRIL 11, 2017 – A firefight erupted in Inabanga town between the ASG members and government troops and resulted in the killing of four ASG members including bomb expert Abu Rami, three soldiers and one policeman and 2 civilians. Thousands of villagers were displaced. Seven ASG survivors went into hiding.
April 22, 2017- A firefight in Clarin killed Joselito Melloria and three other members. At the height of Clarin clash, law enforcers arrested Supt. Ma. Cristina Nobleza and her husband Abu Sayyaf bomber Reenor Lou Dungon, Judith Dungon and a minor. Nobleza and Dungon were in a mission to rescue the remaining ASG members trapped in Bohol.
May 4, 2017- Samad Saad Kiram o Alyas Kiram was arrested in Barangay Tanawan in Tubigon town. He came out of hiding to look for food in the village. He was held for tactical investigation, but less than 24 hours after his capture, he was gunned down by police for allegedly trying to escape while being transported to the Bohol District Jail. Kiram’s death is now the subject of an in-depth investigation by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
May 15, 2017- The last two remaining ASG remnants-Alias Ubayda and Alias Asis were killed in a firefight in Barangay Lawis, Pangangan Island, Calape town. They were hiding for five days inside the “Kastila Cave” covered by mangrove trees until they accosted a resident ad held his son hostage in exchange for food.
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