CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) turned over four Indonesian kidnap victims to Indonesian government authorities on Tuesday, March 23 here at the General Headquarters Canopy Area.

“The kidnap victims have been held captive by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for more than a year and through the AFP’s relentless efforts, the ASG who were based in Sulu, were driven out of their comfort zones and mass base, which eventually led to the successful rescue operation last week in Tawi-Tawi,” AFP Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana said.

Lieutenant General Sobejana led the turnover ceremony together with Police Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar, Officer-in-Charge of the Philippine National Police.

The Indonesian Embassy led by Charge d’affaires, Widya Rahmanto received the kidnap victims. Also present were Indonesian Defense Attaché, Colonel Reza Suud; Army Attaché, Colonel Sigit Himawan.

The four Indonesians Riswanto Bin Hayono, Arical Kastamiran, Arsyad Bin Dahalan, and Khairuldin Bin Yai Kii were flown via the Philippine Air Force C-130 aircraft from Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City to Manila on Sunday. Personnel from the Western Mindanao Command provided security and assistance during their transport.

Hayono, Kastamiran and Dahalan were among the rescued individuals in South Ubian, Tawi-Tawi evening of Thursday, March 18 by Tandubas Police. The 15-year old Yai Kii on the other hand was rescued by elements of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi on Sunday in Kalupag Island, Languyan, Tawi-Tawi.

“This noteworthy accomplishment was a concerted effort with our counterparts from the Philippine National Police and the Local Government Units in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. It is a clear manifestation that through cooperation and vigilant support from various stakeholders – through a whole-of-nation approach – we can effectively fight and prevent the spread of terrorism,” said Lieutenant General Sobejana.

While receiving the KVs, Charge d'Affairs of Indonesia to the Philippines extended his highest appreciation to the Government of the Philippines and all respective agencies for rescuing the victims. He conveyed the acknowledgement of the Indonesian Government for the sincere effort and extraordinary courage of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National Police in conducting the rescue operation.

'On behalf of the Government of Indonesia, we are forever grateful for the support and immediate actions to save the victims', said the Charge d'Affairs.

On January 17, 2020, Abu Sayyaf terrorists led by sub-leaders Ben Wagas, Apo Mike and Injam Yadah abducted five Indonesians off of the waters of Tambisan, Malaysia. They were brought to Patikul, Sulu where they experienced 13 encounters between government troops and their captors.

In one of the encounters on September 28, 2020, operating troops recovered the dead body of one Indonesian named Daeng Akbal Labaa during clearing operations. He was believed to have died of a heart attack. The cadaver was later turned over to Indonesian authorities.

“Given the lessons learned in the past, the AFP has fully recognized that we need to operate, not just as an instrument of war and a tool of policy but as a vital partner in nation-building, as we endeavor to sustain peace and stability for current and future generations of Filipinos,” the AFP Chief said./// (Photos by SN1 Donald Viluan PN/PAO)