By Martin Sadongdong
A doctor who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Jolo, Sulu last month was successfully rescued by the military on Tuesday night after seven weeks in captivity.
Dr. Daniel Moreno was deliberately left by his captors in the hinterlands of Barangay Bangalan in Indanan, Sulu before he was saved by elements of the Philippine Army's 11th Military Intelligence Battalion under the operational supervision of 1102nd Brigade at around 7:30 p.m.
He was abducted by four armed men in Brgy. Walled City in Jolo town on February 4.
"Ang nangyari, parang release then rescue (What happened was like he was released and we rescued him)," said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
Sobejana said they received an intelligence report on the presence of the group that abducted Moreno and five other Indonesian fishermen in Barangay Bangalan.
The troops immediately conducted a hot pursuit operation until they detected the movement of the group which was under the command of Mundi Sawadjaan, nephew of ASG commander Hajan Sawadjaan, who is the designated emir or leader for Islamic State (IS)'s operations in Southeast Asia.
The troops found Moreno alone and escorted him to a safe place, Sobejana said.
Sobejana thought that Moreno was abandoned by the ASG because he was slowing the movement of the militant group while they were being chased by the military.
"Ang nakikita naming dahilan kung bakit nirelease dahil nga sinundan ng sinundan ng tropa. Considering the age and health condition of the doctor, siguro may kabagalan 'yung kanilang movement (We think that he was released because the troops were continuously chasing them. Considering the age and health condition of the doctor, maybe their movement was being slowed down)," he said.
Back-up teams ran after the group to rescue the Indonesian fishermen but a five-minute running gun battle ensued between the two groups. The ASG rebels eventually abandoned the firefight.
Sobejana said the group initially demanded a P3-million ransom from the family of Moreno which they failed to provide since no proof of life was given by the ASG.
"According to the family, wala silang binayad na ransom although may demand. Nagkukumahog sila na maghanap ng pera pero sabi nila hindi nila naibigay (According to the family, they did not pay any ransom although there was a demand for it. They were trying hard to look for the money but they were not able to produce it)," he said.
After his rescue, Moreno was transferred to a military hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu for a medical check-up. He was also subjected to custodial debriefing and documentation before he was turned over to his family.
Sobejana said the doctor is in good condition.
Troops are pursuing the captors of the five Indonesian fishermen who were abducted while fishing near the coast of Malaysia last January 16.