The once courageous soldier Tubil is now bound in a wheelchair.
( Video by Christine Cudis )

-- Twenty years may have passed but Master Sergeant Juanillo Tubil could still vividly remember how he and his 18 Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) men reinforced a troop of cops who were almost wiped out by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in 1998.

"We were guarding our territory then when a civilian rushed to tell us that the Abu Sayyaf is already murdering a group of police officers who ambushed their location, sabi ko dapat tulungan namin sila, hindi dapat pabayaan baka maubos sila doon (I said to myself we should help. it's the terrorists versus police, they may kill them all)," he said.

Ready for the unplanned battle, they rushed to Barangay Tumakid in Lamitan City, Basilan.

"Pagdating namin, dalawa na yung patay sa mga pulis kasali si Chief Romo, may mga sugatan, tapos yung iba tumakbo na palayo, humingi ng tulong (When we arrived two were already dead including Chief Romo, some were wounded while the others ran away for help)," he continued.

They were left to continue the gunfight against a whole bunch of terrorists.

"They were about 50, and we were outnumbered with 19," he said, adding that they did not know yet that it was already ASG founder and leader Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani they were battling against.

The fight that lasted almost an hour left two unknown bodies on the ground, some were dragged by Abu Sayyaf members with them as they retreated.

When more police officers came for rescue, he narrated, the fight was already over. The cops just gathered the bodies and then went back to their office.

As then Basilan Governor Ustadz Wahab M. Akbar checked the bodies, he recognized one of them.

"Si Janjalani raw pala yun sinabi ni Akbar. Alam nya kasi magkaklase pala sila dati, bago siya naging terorista (Akbar said it was Janjalani. He knows him because he and Janjalani were classmates before the latter became a terrorist)," Tubil recounted.

Much to their disappointment, some police personnel already claimed the bounty for Janjalani's neutralization, which is worth over PHP1 million.

It was then that the ASG turned to violence to gain recognition, engaging in bombings, kidnapping, assassinations, and attacks with a special focus on Christians and foreigners. The ASG also targeted the Philippine military, consistent with the organization’s professed goal of resisting the Philippine government and establishing an independent Moro state.

Upon autopsy, the medico-legal doctor has confirmed that the bullets retrieved from gunshot wounds that peppered Janjalani's body were that of an M-14, the type of gun used by Tubil and the CAFGUs, and not from the Garand rifles used by the cops.

It was Tubil's team who gunned down the ASG leader and not the police officers who were already fretting as they ran away from the terror group, leaving behind their already slain comrades.

The country recognized and awarded the police officers but not them, the real heroes behind the victorious combat. But though the write-ups may have fooled the rest, the comrades of slain Janjalani who survived the attack knew it was them who killed their fellowmen.

Tubil and his family were in serious threat every day after that attack. But CAFGUs helped keep them safe, accompanying his children and wife at home and in school.

His security though was not protected after a decade.

In 2008, a group of terrorists ambushed him on his way home and he was hit on the left kidney and another bullet pierced his spine.

He sought treatment at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center but was denied of Complete Disability Discharge (CDD) when he was forced to retire from the service in 2014.

As he was penniless, he went home to Basilan. And with no access to physical therapy for 11 years, he is now paralyzed from the hip down with little to no chances of mobilization. The once courageous soldier Tubil is now bound in wheelchair.

Thankfully, his nephew's arms grew strong enough to carry him around when climbing stairs and getting up to vehicles.

But for the excruciating pain in his legs though, his nephew or anyone in his family can only stare at him helplessly.

While waiting for his ride home, his seatmate would hear him say in a low voice, "bahala na sanang walang trabaho pero hindi paralisado (it would have been better if I was just out-of-job but I am out-of-job and paralyzed)". 

His only wish right now is to at least talk with Secretary Martin Andanar or to President Rodrigo Duterte to help him with his pension and other benefits.

"Nagsulat na ako kay President Duterte pero pina-LBC ko kasi yun, sana nabasa nya. Sana matulungan nila ako (I already wrote to President Duterte but it was via LBC, I hope he was able to read it. I hope he can help me)," he said.

The decorated military official said he has strong hopes that the Duterte Administration will hear him as he can see in the news and from his former colleagues that the president is emphatic towards soldiers.

"I hope my wish will be granted just before I pass away, at least I could give assistance to my family," he said. (PNA)