ZAMBOANGA CITY — THE negotiators were asking for broadcast journalist Ces Drilon, and got her cameraman, Angelo Valderama.
Valderama was released Thursday night by a still unknown group of gunmen to members of the Indanan police in a forested area of Sitio Danasih in Barangay Sinumaan, Talipao, Sulu. He was among the four people—an ABS-CBN team of three and a professor of the Mindanao State University—abducted in Maimbung, Sulu, on Sunday.
“Our objective is to secure Ces and the whole team,” Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji , one of the negotiators, yesterday told the Inquirer on the phone. “[The abductors] are the ones making the decisions, not us, and it was they who released Valderama.”
Drilon, her other cameraman, Jimmy Encarnacion, and Prof. Octavio Dinampo, a peace advocate, are still being held by their captors.
In a press conference held in Jolo, Sulu, Isnaji said he and his fellow negotiator, Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Ann Sahidulla, had asked the abductors to release Drilon.
“We asked for a release. We requested the release of Ces or even just one of their victims. I was expecting it to be Ces, but instead they sent Angelo,” he said.
Immediately after his release, Valderama was taken by policemen to the residence of Isnaji, where he stayed overnight. He was flown to Zamboanga City yesterday.
Isnaji refused to give details of Valderama’s release, saying it might jeopardize the negotiations for the freedom of the remaining captives.
Speaking to Ces
He also would not say what group was holding Drilon et al. or what he and Drilon talked about when they spoke several times prior to Valderama’s release.
But Undersecretary Amilasan Amilbahar of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process claimed to have received information that Valderama was accompanied by “more or less 11 armed men mostly in their early 20s” when he was released.
Chief Supt. Joel Goltiao, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said Valderama would undergo a debriefing to be attended by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon.
Razon said police had yet to get the whole story of the abduction from Valderama.
“That is what we want to find out. But he is resting first,” Razon said.
He also denied the Inquirer report quoting the man hired to drive for the ABS-CBN team in Maimbung that a “military agent” had led Drilon et al. to their abductors.
Board and lodging
Valderama’s freedom was not for free. The negotiators admitted paying a fee for “board and lodging”—a term generally used in lieu of “ransom” in kidnapping cases in the South.
On Thursday night, Amilbahar told the Inquirer the negotiators had paid a P2-million “board and lodging fee” in exchange for Valderama’s release.
According to Amilbahar, the money was part of the election campaign of Isnaji, who is seeking the governorship of Sulu in the ARMM elections scheduled in August.
But the Indanan mayor yesterday maintained that only P100,000, and not P2 million, was given to the kidnappers.
‘Not a centavo’
“Where will I get the money? I don’t even have funds. Vice Governor (Sahidulla) and I had to pool funds to be able to give P100,000, and it was not a ransom payment,” Isnaji said on the phone.
The government maintains a no-ransom policy. And Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who was in Zamboanga City Friday, said the government did not spend “a single centavo” for Valderama’s release.
Even PNP Director General Razon denied knowledge that ransom was paid on Thursday night.
“Angelo Valderama has been recovered and is now in the safety of government forces,” Razon said, adding that the cameraman’s release was the result of negotiations, and not the payment of ransom.
On the other hand, Amilbahar claimed Friday morning to have received information “from the ground” that the “board and lodging fee” was not P2 million but P5 million.
“Nabigla nga ako (I was surprised), but I think they have some explanation for that,” Amilbahar told the Inquirer.
In Jolo, Hainatul Dinampo, Professor Dinampo’s wife, urged the negotiators to also work for his release or at least get his medication to him.
“I’m just looking for someone who can bring him his medicine… My husband has arthritis and his blood pressure sometimes shoots up,” she said in a radio interview.
She also said the Dinampo children had been so badly affected by the kidnapping of their father that they had stopped going to school.
Vice Governor Sahidulla said she and Isnaji had yet to touch base again with the kidnappers since Valderama’s release.
“We haven’t sent any medicines, and we still don’t know when we can do that,” she said.
Agence France-Presse also quoted Mayor Isnaji as saying that the kidnappers had cut off communications: “We have been trying to get in touch with the kidnappers, but all their cell phones have been turned off.”
It was unclear why the kidnappers had severed communications.
In Malacañang, President Macapagal-Arroyo’s deputy spokespersons expressed relief at Valderama’s release.
“We are relieved to know that one of the victims was released unharmed. We are grateful to all those who have volunteered to help our PNP solve this case and bring back the journalists alive and well,” Anthony Golez said.
Golez called on the public to support the authorities’ efforts by giving information that could help find Drilon et al.
Lorelei Fajardo said the release of Valderama was “a positive step in the right direction.”
“We hope that the captors of Ms Drilon will find it in their hearts to release the remaining members of the ABS-CBN news team. We would like to express our congratulations to the negotiators and encourage them to continue their commendable task of negotiating the release of the [team],” Fajardo said.
“Our prayers are with the family of Ces,” she said, and aired the assurance that the government was exerting all efforts to secure the captives’ safe release.
Anthony Golez also bristled at the claim of the driver, Marama Hashim, who is in the custody of the Sulu police.
Golez said the Armed Forces of the Philippines had “reached a high degree of untainted professionalism and will never resort to such illicit activities for any reason.”
He also said any report linking the abduction of Drilon et al. to the military was “farfetched and must be validated.”
But he expressed support for an internal inquiry, saying “the AFP would never allow its reputation to be tarnished, and this should be investigated thoroughly.”
With reports from Alcuin Papa and Michael Lim Ubac in Manila
Parang may napansin akong panghihinayang sa headline ng item na ito. Nang basahin ko ang buong pyesa, kapansin-pansin na ang naging negosyador ay mga politiko, rason para maging katanggap-tanggap ang kanilang himutok. oo nga naman. ces is the bigger fish of them all, in terms of publicity and pogi points. naturally, they would ask for ces talaga dahil, it will be a bigger story nga naman. pero ano ano ang implikasyon nito sa negosasyon?
1: ang mga negosyador ay may pangunahing adyenda — ang sumikat politically para makakalap ng puntos sa nalalapit na namang halalan.
2: ang mga negosyador ay tunay na trapo. nag-zero in agad sila sa personalidad (ces) na magbibigay ng ibayong kasikatan sa kanila. dahil kung hindi, bat sila manghihinayang na instead of ces, angelo was ‘released’? ang ganitong katangian ay masasalamin din sa mga klase ng proyektong isinasagawa ng mga politiko sa kani-kanilang erya: mga walang kwenta pero nakikita(halimbawa ang mga waiting shed na may pangalan nila, mga landmark na kaprasong semento lang, mga trash can na pininturahan, mga batong binuhusan ng kalburo at iba pa).
sa kabilang banda, ang pagpapalaya kay valderama ay isang mahusay na taktika ng mga kidnapper. at ito ang nagpapatibay sa hinala ko na hindi abu sayyaf ang may hawak sa grupo nina ces. si valderama, bukod sa kanyang pagiging ‘proof’ (1. na may naganap ngang kidnapan, 2.na sensiro ang mga kidnapper na pwalan ang iba pa basta ba mababayaran sila, 3) na buhay si ces — ang pinakasikat nilang hostage) ipinapakita rin ang galing ng kanilang pagpili at husay sa antisipasyon sa mga nangyayari (na tiyak na si ces ang unang hihilingin ng mga politiko, at dahil si ces ang sikat, siya ang dapat na panatilihin nilang hawak dahil si ces ang magiging pananggalang nila laban sa anumang atakeng gagawin ng militar.
dahil dito, umusbong din ang hinala k na malamang ay pinagplanuhan ang pagdukot na ito kina ces, at hindi ito isang ispontanyong pangingidnap lamang na karaniwan nang makikita sa mga handiwrk ng abu sayaff.
hanggang ngayon, midya lang ang nagsasabing asg ang may hawak kina ces. pero wala pa tayong naririnig mula sa asg. at pati si valderama ay di pa rin nagssasalita, ganun din ang abs-cbn. nakapagtataka lang kasi, samantalang ipinagmamalaki pa ng asg kung sila ang may hawak ng ganyang klase ng tao, pero ngayon ang abs-cbn pa mismo ang nanawagan ng pananahimik samantalang wala namang implikasyon sa seguridad nina ces kung malalaman ng buong bayan na asg nga ba ang humahawak sa kanila ngayon.
o baka totoo ngang hindi asg?
ah. talagang nakakatakot yan. talagang kung ako ang abs, mananawagan muna ako ng pananahimik o pag-iingat sa pagbabalita hinggil sa kalagayan nina ces.
hmm… malalim ito. and im now atsrting t believe na may kinalaman ang ilang kagawad ng militar dito. sana mali ako.