Gov’t militia members feted in Basilan for fighting vs Abu Sayyaf

Gov’t militia members feted in Basilan for fighting war vs Abu Sayyaf

/ 04:35 AM October 11, 2023

Civilian militia member Wilbert Garcia shakes hands with Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade based in Basilan, after being honored as among the local heroes in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province.

RECOGNITION | Civilian militia member Wilbert Garcia shakes hands with Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade based in Basilan, after being honored as among the local heroes in the fight against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province. (Photo by JULIE S. ALIPALA / Inquirer Mindanao)

LAMITAN CITY, Basilan, Philippines — More than five years ago, on Aug. 31, 2018, Wilbert Garcia survived a car bombing in Barangay Bulanting here that killed 10 people, including five of his fellow civilian militias and a soldier.

As a member of the Army’s Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) since 2002, Garcia had gone through countless violent attacks by the terror and bandit group Abu Sayyaf, leaving him both physically and psychologically scarred.


Last Saturday, Garcia was among the Cafgu members who were feted in a rare ceremony that gave recognition to the sacrifices of government militias to rid Basilan of the scourge of terrorism and banditry, making its communities safe for civilians, especially children.


“I don’t think I am a hero; I was just protecting my people here in Lamitan,” Garcia said, but beamed as it was his first time to earn recognition after more than 20 years as a Cafgu member.

Garcia was handed a key to a brand new motorcycle by Dr. Arlyn Jawad Jumao-as, president and founder of the Save the Children of War in Mindanao Association Inc.

“I am very happy. I never expected to receive a grand gift,” Garcia said.

Jumao-as said some 520 militias attended the event on Saturday and they were able to give at least 300 bicycles to their children, along with foodstuff, vitamins, toys, footwear and school supplies, all from donations.

READ: Ex-Abu Sayyaf now a soldier after completing Army training

Not enough support

“I know it’s not enough, but at least we can put smiles on the faces of the Cafgu members’ children,” she added.Jumao-as said they took the initiative to honor the Cafgu members in Basilan during the 9th Children’s Festival of Love and Peace, especially the orphaned children of militias Adzlan Abdula, Muid Manda, Titing Omar, Hermilito Gapo Jr. and Jerry Inso and Army Cpl. Samad Jumah who perished in the 2018 explosion in Bulanting.

The honor rites also gave a much-needed attention to their plight: “Cafgu members are [battle] frontliners of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We owe our peace to them,” Jumao-as stressed, sadly noting that despite this role, they received meager support from the government.


Cafgu members don’t receive enough to support a family since they each only received between P6,500 and P,7000 in subsistence allowance and other benefits, according to Jumao-as and Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade based in the province.

Luzon acknowledged the struggles of their Cafgu members, which totaled to about 2,000 throughout Basilan.

Each receives P7,000 in substance and service allowances for every 15 days of duty, while their children can avail of scholarships under the Army’s Educational Benefit System Office, Luzon said.

In case of injury, each militia is also entitled to hospitalization allowance and the family is given death-related assistance in case they die in the line of duty, Luzon added.

READ: Gov’t body declares Sulu ‘Abu Sayyaf-free’

Homeless, too

Majority of the Cafgu members in Basilan also have no decent homes, forcing some of them to bring their families to their barracks, similarly exposing them to the dangers of war. The four civilians who died in the 2018 blast were kin of the militias, she noted.

“If we can provide house and lot including livelihood and scholarships to [members of] the Abu Sayyaf group who surrendered to the government, how come we cannot extend the same privileges to our Cafgu members, those who died protecting the people? Their orphans, their widows are struggling every day,” Jumao-as pointed out.

Inso’s widow Angelina, who went through a year of medication for her blast wounds at the military’s V Luna Hospital, revealed that after the incident, victims like her and Garcia only received a one-time cash assistance from then-President Rodrigo Duterte.

“My husband Jerry’s dream was to see his children finish their education, but since we don’t have money or scholarship, only two of them are in school. The three were forced to work to help their younger siblings,” Angelina said.

Garcia said he will use the motorcycle to earn more for his family, as his income is barely enough for the needs of his four children who are in school.

Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman said Cafgu members are economically marginalized. “If a Cafgu member dies performing his duties, the family is left to suffer and fend for themselves; no livelihood and no education support. We need to create consciousness among leaders to witness the realities on the ground and make necessary actions to help them,” Hataman added.

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He also proposed a review with the goal of improving the programs and services for Cafgu members, either from the national or local governments, “because they are always the first responders in case something happens in a community.” INQ

TAGS: Abu Sayyaf Group

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