TAWI TAWI – Life is slowly reverting to “normal” for a family that counts followers of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) among its members, including the head of the family and a few of the clan’s offspring.
Berrong Sariol is the head of the clan. He is considered by the military as a sub-leader of the ASG.
He has sons and grandsons who have likewise joined ASG.
According to information from the military, Berrong’s clan assisted the ASG in raids to pluck kidnap victims in the high seas, and that they have venture toward Malaysian territory to snare potential kidnap victims, which explains why they have apparently piled up quite a record in that country.
But, Berrong maintains, there is no truth to the military’s narrative. He insists that the most they have to do with the Abu Sayyaf is to allow elements of the bandit group to occasionally spend the night at his house.
This is because one of Berrong’s cousins is ASG sub-leader Udon Hassan, under high-ranking ASG leader Radulan Sahiron.
“Yung ginagawa lang namin, alaagan sila, dahil wala naman silang ibang lugar na pupuntahan, pinapatuloy namin sila sa bahay namin. Yun lang, kamag anak ko kasi si Udon Hassan, kaya kinukupkop namin (What we do is just to take care of their needs, give them shelter, because they have nowhere to go).”
But, Berrong insists, his family never joined any raids to capture kidnap victims.
“Kasama kami kapag nag paplano sila na pagdukot ng mga biktima, tapos pinapakinggan namin ang paligid, kung ano nangyayari … sa dadaanan nila sinasabi namin sa kanila para di sila mahuli … pagkain, binibigyan din namin sila (Sometimes we are into the planning of abductions, then we keep them informed about the situation along the routes that they take, to avoid being caught … We provide food for them).”
In return for their hospitality, the ASG would give them cash assistance, PhP50,000 one time.
Still, Berrong’s family, ultimately decided to turn their backs on the shadowy life, to surrender and make a new life under the fold of the law.
“Inisip ko yung pamilya ko, kaya kami sumuko. Gusto ko rin mapaaral yung mga anak at apo ko. Hindi kami makalabas. Palagi na lang kaming nasa bundok. Ang hirap din ng buhay (I think of my family, that’s why we yielded. I also want my sons and their sons’ sons to get an education. We cannot get out of the mountains. Life is hard).”
This turnabout has brought joy to the 18-year old grandson of Berrong, Arhan, who sees this as the opportunity to pursue his dream to be a soldier: “Even my brothers want to become soldiers. Now we can study, and I can help my siblings get an education.”
After Berrong’s clan surrendered to authorities, his cousin Udon Hassan followed suit, and it seems that even Radulan Sahiron is reportedly considering the possibility of surrendering, after seeing that his followers are doing well after giving themselves up.
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