PCG men forced to serve Abu Sayyaf

Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 21 2015 04:04 PM | Updated as of Aug 22 2015 08:52 AM

Rodlyn Pagaling and Gringo Villaruz, members of the Philippine Coast Guard taken hostage by al Qaeda-linked militants three months ago, arrive at the Coast Guard headquarters in Manila. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

MANILA - The two personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) who escaped captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf group are now safely back inside PCG headquarters, where they were also reunited with their families.

SN2 Gringo Villaruz and SN1 Rodlyn Pagaling were abducted last May 4, 2015 in Brgy Aliguay, Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Abducted with them was Rodolfo Buligao, the barangay captain who was killed last August 11. They were then taken from Dapitan, to Siocon, and then in Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay, before arriving in Indanan, Sulu where they consequently escaped.

Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, Commandant of the PCG, said the barangay requested their presence in Aliguay because it was where tourists get off after vacationing in the island resort of Dakak. They were, in fact, kidnapped while sleeping in the barangay hall, since there was no Coast Guard detachment there.

Rodlyn Pagaling, one of the two members of the Philippine Coast Guard taken hostage by al Qaeda-linked militants three months ago, is welcomed by his loved ones upon arrival at the Coast Guard headquarters in Manila. Photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

When Pagaling and Villaluz arrived in Manila via a commercial flight from Zamboanga, their faces were still ashen, their lips pale. They refused to be interviewed, and were immediately ushered into a waiting vehicle that sped off to the South Harbor.

But when they entered PCG grounds, they smiled as their colleagues shook their hands.

Pagaling wept as he was met by his wife Judith, 3-year old daughter Alaina, father, and sister.

Waiting at the gate of headquarters were no less than Isorena himself, as well as DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya. Both insist that no ransom was paid for the 2.

HOSTAGES TURNED SERVANTS

Sources privy to the negotiation and operation say that during their almost 4-month long captivity, Pagaling and Villaluz were turned into servants of the approximately 200-strong Abu Sayyaf group holding them in Sulu. They were made to cook the rebels' meals, fetch water, carry bullets, and even massage the backs 10-year old children who were at the camp.

When the First Scout Ranger Battalion launched their offensive at around 5:30pm of August 19, the captives' 4 armed guards were among those who fell first, giving Pagaling and Villaluz their chance to escape. Villaluz said he saw his chance and immediately ran away, without even thinking where he was going.

Pagaling, meanwhile, ran and fell off a ravine, creating distance between him and his captors, who by then were completey occupied by the military assault.

Villaruz was rescued by the military at 7am the following morning. Pagaling was rescued an hour later. Both thank the AFP for their help in getting them out.

Villaruz and Pagaling only found out that the barangay captain they were with was beheaded when they were rescued. They - the barangay captain included - were told that he was to be released.

The 2 were immediately debriefed by the AFP Western Mindanao Command. They will also be given a chance to recuperate, debrief, and spend time with their families now that they are out of harm's way.