The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) yesterday announced through an official press release that a total of 40 Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members have submitted and surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) since January 2017.
Lt. General Carlito Galvez told newsmen that most of the surrendered rebels also turned over their firearms to the military including high-powered firearms such as M16 and Garand rifles. Most of those surrendered were from Basilan and Sulu, the known cradle of the ASG.
Four of those who surrendered belong to the ASG Kidnap for Ransom Group (KFRG). They were identified as Patta Salapudding, Asbi Salapuddin, Sayyadi Salapuddin and Arci Salapuddin. The Salapuddin brothers have reportedly involved also in maritime piracy including the seajacking of MV Super Shuttle T/B1 this year.
The surrendered ASG members underwent processing and will undergo further investigation. The military reported that they also expect more ASG members to surrender as a result of the military pressure in the known hideouts of the ASG in Basiland and Sulu.
The AFP earlier sent 10,000-foot soldiers to pursue the ASG. The US government tagged the ASG as a terrorist group in its FBI list of terrorist organizations.
Earlier, two of ASG leaders, Abu Rami and Abu Misaya, were killed in a separate encounter with military forces. A policewoman colonel was also arrested after she was suspected of rescuing some ASG members in Bohol. The policewoman was identified as Police Superintendent Maria Cristina Nobleza who happens to be the wife of ASG member Reenor Lou Dongon.
Both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to eradicate the ASG by June 2017. The ASG started in 1991 as a small group of the separatist revolutionary organization but eventually evolved into becoming a bandit group involved in diverse clandestine activities such as maritime piracy, kidnapping and extortion. A faction of the ASG also pledged allegiance to the ISIS group based in Syria.
In a related development, the military also reported that one of ASG's top pioneer leader ,74-year-old Radullon Sahiron, has also sent feelers to surrender. The US government has offered US 1 million dollars reward to anyone who can provide information that will lead to his arrest.