Families return to Sulu village after 3 years of fearing Abu Sayyaf | Inquirer News
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Families return to Sulu village after 3 years of fearing Abu Sayyaf

/ 11:11 AM October 11, 2020

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The military has scored a victory against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf with the return of more than 600 families to their village in Patikul town of Sulu.

Due to atrocities of the Islamic State-linked bandits, the 645 families of Tugas village deserted their community in 2017 and relocated to Patikul’s other villages of Liang, Sandah, Tanum, Kaunayan, and Buhanginan.

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They endured a three-year absence from Tugas which has turned into a battleground as the bandits sought to entrench themselves in Sulu’s communities.

Recently, with assurances from the military, and the weakening strength of the bandits, the families streamed back to Tugas.

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“The place is now habitable; the community is starting to bounce back with the presence of the people,” said Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

Vinluan, along with Bangsamoro region’s social welfare minister Raissa Jajurie, personally witnessed the families’ return starting last Thursday, Oct. 8.

In a dialogue with residents, Jajurie acknowledged the need for investing into Tugas’ rebirth such as for restarting livelihoods, and construction of basic facilities like health center, school, village office, and multi-purpose hall for community gatherings.

“I have personally seen today the plight of the people of Tugas. I give my assurance that all of your pleas will be conveyed to the concerned ministries (of the Bangsamoro),” said Jajurie.

The residents’ return is just the first step in Patikul Mayor Habir Hayudini’s Balik-Barangay Program with the Army’s 1102nd Infantry Brigade.

Vinluan said the program also seeks to “put up necessary government structures that will address their welfare needs.”

Currently, volleyball, badminton and basketball courts are being constructed in Tugas in a bid to establish a sports complex there and be a showcase for community rebuilding, said Vinluan.

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To ensure the safety of villagers, a security system was established consisting of village watchmen, local police, and soldiers.

Apart from combat operations, the military has also turned to cultivating civilian commitment in the drive against the Abu Sayyaf.

The strategy seeks to deny the bandits with community support hence constricting the physical space within which they operate.

Also on Thursday, Jajurie handed P15,000 to former bandits who surrendered since 2017, representing the Bangsamoro government’s assistance in restarting their lives.

Brig. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said a total of 144 former Abus were given seed capital, in all amounting to P2.16 million.

He said a total of 271 former bandits have surrendered to the government in the last three years. They are being assisted through the Localized Social Integration Program or LSIP that is jointly done by the local governments of Sulu and the military.

Lt. Col. Rolando Mateo, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Sulu, said the LSIP seeks to lure bandits to return into the fold of law, help mould the lives of those who surrendered away from banditry, and facilitate their reintegration into mainstream society.

The package of assistance includes, among others, education, livelihood training, and housing.

JE

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Military, Patikul, Sulu
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