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By: Leo Udtohan, Nestle L. Semilla May 12,2017 - 11:45 PM

The stolen boat found in Barangay Magtongtong, Pangangan Island, Calape town is believed to be what the two Abu Sayyaf remnants used to flee from mainland Bohol on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. This photo was taken on May 12, 2017. Leo Udtohan/Inquirer  Visayas

The stolen boat found in Barangay Magtongtong, Pangangan Island, Calape town is believed to be what the two Abu Sayyaf remnants used to flee from mainland Bohol on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. This photo was taken on May 12, 2017.
Leo Udtohan/Inquirer Visayas

AFP confirms sighting of 2 remaining Abu Sayyaf bandits on the island of Pangangan in Calape, Bohol.
CALAPE, Bohol — Assault government troops and navy vessels have surrounded Pangangan Island after residents reported seeing the remaining two Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits on the island, a mangrove forest preserve connected by a four-kilometer causeway to mainland Calape town.

Army soldiers began combing the island’s five-hectare mangrove swamps since early yesterday to look for the two ASG stragglers known only as Abu Asis and Abu Ubayda, but the two remained elusive as pursuing troops decided to stop the search at nightfall.

However, military and police authorities said there was no way the two could still escape from the island since all entry and exit points to the island are now heavily guarded.

“Hindi sila makaalis doon. Alangan naman magbangka sila papuntang Zamboanga.

(They can no longer escape from the island. It is also unlikely that they can paddle a boat all the way to Zamboanga.)

People will see them, the residents who keep on giving us information,” Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO) director Senior Supt. Felipe Natividad Jr. said yesterday.

Natividad surmised that the two bandits did not take the causeway but instead stole a boat in going to Pangangan Island since they also received a report that a fisherman lost his boat on the same day that the bandits were sighted on the island.

“Eventually nakita yung bangka sa Pangangan (the boat was found in Pangangan),” Natividad said.

Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño also said it would just be a matter of time before the two are captured.

“Kasi wala na silang resources, pagkain. Natural pupunta yan sa mga bahay-bahay (Because they don’t have resources and food anymore, its natural that they will visit houses),” Taliño said.

News blackout

The military was alerted of the sighting on Wednesday but asked for a news blackout until Thursday to allow troops to quietly move to Calape and into Pangangan Island amid reports that the two remaining bandits have a guide who was also keenly monitoring media reports as they try to move around Bohol undetected.

Yesterday, however, authorities decided to confirm the sighting as the troops’ movement — land, air and sea — could no longer be kept out of the public’s view.

The sightings

A 16-year-old boy yesterday narrated that he was at home on Wednesday afternoon in Barangay Kahayag, Pangangan Island, when he heard an unfamiliar voice outside the kitchen asking for food.

“Ayo, ayo, naa mo bahaw (Hello, hello, do you have leftover rice)?” the boy quoted the visitor as saying.

Frightened, the boy said he did not answer. The man knocked again and left when the teenager didn’t utter a word.

“I was terrified because I was alone in the house. I thought they were two. When people said these could be Abu Sayyaf members, the more I got scared since I had an encounter with them,” he said.

Other children on the island claimed to have seen the two men — both thin and wearing shirts that were worn-out. One of them had a hard time walking.

But what intrigued the residents on the island was the baruto (boat) that was tied to one of the mangrove trees on Wednesday morning.

Fisherman Felix Cabreras, 58, said he saw the boat while he was preparing to set sail. He said the design of the boat was unfamiliar in Pangangan.

According to Insp. Cresente Gurrea, chief of the Calape Police Station, the boat was stolen from Barangay Liboron, in mainland Calape.

Gurrea said the owners, Cenon and Marcelina Cubelo, discovered they lost their boat on May 10.

“They didn’t notice it because everyone was busy celebrating the town fiesta (on that day),” said Gurrea.

Gurrea said the boat was possibly used by the two Abu Sayyaf members.

“Mao man to nakit-an sa mga residente gisakyan sa duha ka tawo (It was seen by residents being boarded by two men),” he added.

Victor Talatagod, barangay captain of Barangay Kinabag-an on Pangangan Island, said some other residents reported the sightings of two men on Wednesday.

The village chief, quoting the residents, said one of them had slightly shaven head and was wearing shoes. The other, who was in a pair of slippers and wrapped a shirt around his head, was seen carrying a paddle and a sack containing unknown items.

The same description also fitted the two Abu Sayyaf members who were spotted in Barangay Candungao, San Isidro town on Monday.

On Thursday evening, checkpoints were set up in the seven barangays on Pangangan Island.

By the crack of dawn on Friday, government troops were already seen in the island’s Barangays Kahayag and Lawis.

By midday, military authorities in Bohol confirmed that two bandits were hiding inside the five-hectare mangrove forest of the island.

Rubber boats from the Philippine Navy were roving the waters surrounding the island to prevent the remnants’ escape.

No stopping the fiesta

Many residents were alarmed by the presence of the Abu Sayyaf remnants, but it did not stop them from celebrating the island’s fiesta yesterday.

Pangangan Island was celebrating the vesper day of Our Lady of Fatima on Friday.

“Some residents prepared foods for visitors,” said Edward Pelesores, 37, a kagawad (councilman) of Barangay Kahayag.

Failed mission

The two are the remaining members of a group of about 11 ASG members who entered Bohol last April 10 on board three kumpits (two-engine motorboats) on a terror and kidnapping mission in Bohol and neighboring provinces.

Four ASG members, including their leader Muammar Askali alias Abu Rami, were killed in the government’s initial assault in Barangay Napo, Inabanga town on April 11.

Over a week later, on April 22, four of the seven remaining ASG members who were on the run were killed after they were sighted in Inabanga’s neighboring town of Clarin. Among those killed was their sub-leader Joselito Melloria, a Boholano and a native of Inabanga town.

Last May 4, Saad Samad Kiram alias Abu Saad was arrested in Barangay Tanawan in Tubigon town after he came out of hiding to look for food in the village.

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.

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TAGS: ASG, bohol, BPPO, Calape, island, Zamboanga

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