ZAMBOANGA CITY – About 1,100 residents from 206 families who were displaced for almost four years due to the chaos wrought by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in their community were finally able to return to their respective homes in Patikul, Sulu.
This was disclosed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan who said that, through the Balik-Barangay Program of the provincial government and the military, the displaced families were able to return to their respective homes in Barangay Kabbon Takas, Patikul, Sulu last Friday, November 20.
Kabbon Takas Barangay Chairman Ahajuli Ahajani said: “Tatlong beses na kaming nagbakwit. Lagi kaming napipilitan bumaba dahil sa gulo na dala ng Abu Sayyaf. Nagpapasalamat kami nakabalik na ulit kami. Palagay ang loob ko na sa pagkakataong ito, dito na talaga kami.”
(We have evacuated three times. We are always forced to go down because of all the violence that the Abu Sayyaf has brought to our community. We are thankful that we have finally been able to return. We are confident that, this time, we will no longer need to leave)
Tan said the provincial government of Sulu has provided each of the returning families with starter kits. which include roofing materials for their shelters, food packs, sacks of rice, footwear, and P5,000 cash to each family.
Tan emphasized that this new episode in the life of the internally displaced families was made possible through the concerted efforts of the provincial government, the military, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and other partners and stakeholders.
He also expressed his appreciation for the professionalism and sincerity exhibited by the troops of the 11th Infantry Division (ID) and the Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu led by Maj. Gen. William Gonzales.
Armed Force of the Philippines- Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WestMinCom) Commander Lt Gen Corleto Vinluan, Jr. said that despite all the difficult circumstances including the existence of the invisible enemy, the healing and rebuilding of the previous conflict-affected areas in Sulu continues.
The village of Kabbon Takas in Patikul, Sulu was known as among the strongholds of the ASG, and also became ground zero in the previous years where most armed encounters between the group and the government forces transpired, which led to the frequent displacement of the populace.
The ASG also perpetrated several acts of violence in the barangay, including the burning of a school.
Vinluan said that, through the relentless efforts of the military’s JTF- Sulu, the ASG eventually lost its supremacy and its capability dwindled. The military gained ground and was able to sustain the momentum.
It took the soldiers of the 1102nd Infantry Brigade, the local government, and the people of Kabbon Takas to bring back the area to normalcy. The soldiers cleaned the surroundings, concreted the roads, provided a water system, and built houses.
According to Tan, two days before the return of the residents, a “Jamaah” was held to seek Allah’s healing, guidance, and protection.
Part of the activity was the People’s Peace Covenant declaring the ASG as Persona Non-Grata in the community.
This was signed by the local chief executives, the members of the Municipal Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict (MTF-ELAC) of Patikul, the military officers, and the barangay officials of Kabbon Takas.