Abu Sayyaf demands P50M

Families of victims talking directly with kidnappers

By Al Jacinto, Correspondent

ZAMBOANGA CITY: Abu Sayyaf militants are reportedly demanding as much as P50 million for the safe release of a kidnapped television news crew on the southern island of Sulu.

The militants are holding award-winning ABS-CBN reporter Ces Oreña-Drilon and her two cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, as well as university professor Octavio Dinampo.

Television network ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. said it would not pay ransom to kidnappers, who originally demanded P10 million.

Radio network dzRH in Manila on Thursday said the militants were demanding P50 million from the victims’ families negotiating directly with the Abu Sayyaf.

It said the hostages should have been freed on Wednesday after negotiators agreed to pay the ransom, but the Abu Sayyaf did not release Drilon’s group after ABS-CBN issued a statement saying it will not pay ransom to the terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah.

The radio network, owned by the Manila Broadcasting Corp., which quoted unnamed sources privy to the negotiations, also reported that the kidnappers have already lowered their demand to P25 million. The report could not be independently confirmed.

It said the hostages are being held by Abu Sayyaf leaders Albader Parad and Umbra Jumdail, also known as Dr. Abu, in Sulu province. Police also tagged Gafur Jumdail as among those who kidnapped the four people on June 8.

Drilon and her companions were intercepted near the village of Kulasi in Maimbung town while on their way to interview senior Abu Sayyaf terror leader Radulan Sahiron, who is said to be planning to surrender.

Police said the hostages are still alive, but it was unclear where the Abu Sayyaf is hiding the victims.

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, chief of the regional police force, said there are efforts to negotiate with the kidnappers for the release of the hostages. “There are options here and one is to locate the hostages and negotiate for their safe release,” he said.

Goltiao said the government has a strict no-ransom policy.

He added that the police are closely coordinating with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, the head of the local Crisis Management Committee, in resolving the problem peacefully.

Parad and Jumdail are notorious Abu Sayyaf leaders wanted by Washington and Manila for terrorism and kidnappings-for-ransom. The two are also believed coddling Jemaah Islamiah bomber Dulmatin and Umar Patek, tagged as behind the 2002 deadly bombings in Bali which killed more than 200 mostly tourists; and in several attacks in Jakarta.

The Abu Sayyaf group was also tagged as behind the kidnapping early this year of Maria Rosalie Lao, 58, a rice trader in Jolo town. It was also behind the kidnapping in 2001 of 21 people, mostly Asian and European tourists from the Malaysian island-resort of Sipadan.

Last year, the group kidnapped seven people in Sulu and beheaded them after their families failed to pay ransom.

The US has offered up to $5-million bounty and Manila as much as P10 million for the capture—dead or alive—of known Abu Sayyaf leaders, including Jumdail.

The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also offered to help secure the release of Drilon’s team that arrived in Sulu on June 7 from Zamboanga City.

Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim said Drilon did not coordinate with them when they arrived in Sulu. She also declined military escorts. He said the victims were believed taken to the hinterlands of Indanan town.

Drilon’s group was lodged at the Sulu State College hostel in Jolo town where they took two rooms and left after ordering food good for 20 people.

Drilon’s group was the second from the television network to be kidnapped in Sulu in the past eight years. Reporter Maan Macapagal and her cameraman Val Cuenca were also kidnapped on the island while working on exclusive news on the Abu Sayyaf.

Independent journalist Arlyn de la Cruz was also kidnapped in Sulu while covering the Abu Sayyaf. Another photojournalist, Gene Boyd Lumawag, was shot in the head by an Abu Sayyaf militant while shooting the sunset in Sulu several years ago.

The Abu Sayyaf had also seized foreign journalists covering the Sipadan kidnapping crisis. Many of those kidnapped were freed after paying huge ransoms.(ManilaTimes)

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