Gapu-Talabaan sea encounter, no link to Sibugay, Basilan incidents PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 October 2011 16:09

Authorities yesterday stressed that the Gapuh-Talabaan sea encounter between Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) troops and lawless elements Wednesday night was not linked to the Basilan and Sibugay incidents.

Mayor Celso Lobregat together with TFZ chief Col. Buenaventura Pascual and City Police OIC Director Col. Edwin de Ocampo met with members of the media to emphasize that the encounter was a result of increased security measures specifically sea patrols in the city’s coastal areas.

Mayor Lobregat said the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) had a series of planning and preparations following the incidents in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay the past days.

“The authorities have been instructed to beef up forces and increase land and sea patrols and this (encounter) was a result of the patrols that were out during the night”, the mayor said.

But even if it has no connection the incidents in the neighboring provinces, the mayor called on the residents to be “very alert but at the same time calm, be very vigilant but at the same time let us be sober, let us be active but not over active”.

The mayor, who heads the CPOC, at the same time called on all force multipliers such as the barangay tanods, (barangay intelligence networks) BINs, Civilian volunteers such as the SCAA and CAFGU including the blue guards to help in the effort to secure Zamboanga City from lawless groups.

Col. Pascual said the sea patrol encounter in the Gapu-Talabaan area Wednesday night was between the 12th DRC team which composed of 4 forces from TFZ, 2 CAFGU forces and one barangay tanod and a lawless group of 4 members.  The incident resulted to the death of the government team leader Cpl. Jerry Sacayan and wounding of four others.

The authorities believe that the enemy side also suffered casualties and have been scouring the area since the incident happened to search for bodies—be it wounded or dead. 

Col. De Ocampo said the Gapu-Talabaan sea incident was not the first in the area, as several skirmishes including strafing incidents have already occurred in the area. “The incident last night was just part of those incidents and had no link with the Basilan and Sibugay incidents. These are local lawless elements that are seeking temporary refuge in the 11 islands of Sacol and have warrants of arrest.”

The authorities could not pinpoint the lawless group that encountered with the TFZ-led group but stressed that they Pingli brothers and the Imran Asgari group are among lawless elements that are on the run due to their warrants of arrest.

Councilor Abdurahman Nuño amplified that these lawless elements are on mobile and seek refuge in any of the 11 islands specifically in the mangrove area for two or three days and move to other sites to prevent detection.

“They don’t stay in one area,” Nuno said but stressed that barangay officials and volunteers in cooperation with the authorities are doing their best to rid of these lawless elements in the area.

Meanwhile, Mayor Lobregat clarified anew that while the entire Zamboanga Peninsula is on red alert, there is no curfew in Zamboanga City but only in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

The mayor likewise called on the residents to stop circulating text messages that are bound to create panic, fear and chaos. As responsible citizens, he said, people should verify the information with the authorities concerned before passing the text messages to others.

The press briefing held at the City Hall conference room yesterday noon was done in the presence of the members of the CPOC and the City Council with whom the mayor met on an executive session afterwards.

Among those present during the press briefing, aside from Col. Pascual and Col. De Ocampo, was Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde. — Sheila Covarrubias