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Archive for June 18th, 2008

Military, police launch offensives vs Drilon abductors

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Kidnap for ransom charges to be filed–official

By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
First Posted 10:54:00 06/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) The military and police will launch offensives against the abductors of a television news crew and a professor as kidnap-for-ransom charges were being readied against them after their victims were freed late Tuesday, officials said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to “conduct massive manhunt operations” for the kidnappers of ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, her crew, and a professor, in Sulu after they were released late Tuesday night.

Also kidnapped with Drilon last June 8 were her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo. Valderama was released last June 12 after “board and lodging fee” was paid.

Armed Forces Chief Alexander Yano has ordered “punitive action” against the abductors, who have been identified as members of the Abu Sayyaf, said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., Armed Forces Public Affairs Office chief.

“The chief of staff issued a directive, he said that punitive actions will be launched against the kidnappers and other terrorists in Sulu,” Torres told a news conference at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo Wednesday.

“We will be using the full might of the government forces in that area to go after them of course without unduly compromising the safety of the civilian communities in the area,” Torres said.

Yano ordered the punitive strikes before dawn Wednesday upon learning of the release of the three remaining hostages, Torres said.

Torres could not give an immediate estimate of the number of troops in
Sulu, composed of six Marine Battalion Landing Teams, elite Army forces, and contingents from the Navy and the Air Force.

A battalion is composed of roughly 500 troops.

Torres said there was no plan to augment military forces in Sulu, adding, “We have already enough troops on the ground, and it’s just a matter of focusing our operation, focusing all our efforts towards the accomplishment of this particular mission.”

Intelligence estimates placed the strength of the Abu Sayyaf at 380, most of them in Sulu, where the bandits are allegedly coddling Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militants Umar Patek and Marwan.

Troops have identified the “general location” of the kidnappers of Drilon’s group, Torres said.

The hostage-taking also did not tie down offensives against the main
Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, Torres said, referring to the mortar attacks in the province last Sunday.

Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao police director, said Wednesday that all troops in the region were “in operation mode” against members of the Abu Sayyaf group, several of whom Drilon had identified in a photo gallery.

“We are on all out offensive against the kidnappers and the perpetrators of the crime. We have identified them through pictures and aliases,” said Goltiao in a phone interview.

Goltiao said police were also conducting checkpoints in the area and a gunban was being implemented.

At the same time, Goltiao belied reports that Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, who served as negotiator, and Dinampo were undergoing questioning because they were being treated as suspects.

“All of them are undergoing questioning, debriefing, even Ces. But it will all depend on the evidence gathered,” said Goltiao.

Drilon, Encarnacion, and Dinampo, along with Isnaji were flown to Zamboanga from Sulu via Philippine Airforce Helicopter. They arrived in Zamboanga around 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, said Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman.

Bartolome said the group was brought to the PNP office where they were reunited with Valderama.

“They were later attended by Dr./Major Roberto Calupitan of CNGH, West Mindanao Command and his medical team. They were allowed to rest after a light hot meal,” Bartolome added.

It is not immediately clear what time Drilon and company will be flown back to Manila, he said.

Bartolome also said that kidnap for ransom charges were being readied against the abductors, including two who have been identified by authorities — Sulayman Patta and a certain Walid.

Police had released artist sketches of the two and said they were sure that both were with the group that abducted Drilon and her companions.

Bartolome said investigators were establishing and confirming the identities of the other kidnappers, adding that they are looking at a list of about 20 suspects.

With reports from Lira D. Fernandez,; Alcuin Papa, Inquirer

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-06-18T05:53:55+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Wed, 18 Jun 2008 05:53:55 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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Ces Drilon, companions freed

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By Thea Alberto, Joel Guinto, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:02:00 06/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines–Kidnapped television reporter Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were freed late Tuesday night, nine days after they were abducted in Sulu province.

Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon confirmed the hostages were released at around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“They were picked up by Jun Isnaji and secured by four policemen at Sitio Danasi, lower Sinumaan, Talipao, Sulu and brought to the house of Mayor Alvarez Isnaji,” Razon related in a text message. Jun Isnaji is Haider Isnaji, the mayor’s son.

“Ces Drilon and company are in good condition but they will immediately be given medical attention and appropriate nutrition. A plan for airlift o Zamboanga, and a reunion with family are also being considered,” said Razon.

He said the three will have to first undergo a debriefing in Zamboanga City before they are flown back to Manila.

Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo were with another ABS-CBN cameraman, Angelo Valderama, when they were kidnapped in Maimbung, Sulu, on June 8 while they were on the way to interview a top commander of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

Valderama was released on June 12 after a P2-million ransom was reportedly paid for his “board and lodging.”

In a phone interview Tuesday night from Zamboanga City with reporters in Camp Crame, Razon denied that any ransom payment or concession had been made to the kidnappers who were believed to be Abu Sayyaf members.

He said the negotiators had built on the goodwill developed with the kidnappers since the release of Valderama last week and the “cancellation” of Tuesday’s noon deadline for the payment of P15 million.

The release of the hostages, Razon claimed, was merely “due to the persistent and persuasive efforts of the local crisis committee under Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and Governor Sakur Tan.”

Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), also confirmed the release of the kidnap victims but declined to provide additional details.

“Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo are finally all free,” ABS-CBN said in a statement. “We are thankful our prayers have been answered and our efforts rewarded.”

“Above all, the release of Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo could not have been possible without the cooperation of the people of Sulu and their local government. We thank them and share their hope for enduring peace in Mindanao,” the statement added.

Razon meanwhile said he had no idea Senator Loren Legarda was part of the negotiations.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer also learned that Legarda had been involved in the negotiations for the last five days at the request of Drilon’s family and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., where Legarda was a broadcaster for many years before running for the Senate.

The Inquirer learned that Legarda secured the captives’ release without conditions or payment of ransom but on “purely humanitarian grounds.”

No military or police elements were present in the release operations.

“Ces is free. She is resting. Soon, she will be in the hands of her family,” Legarda told dzMM radio.

Legarda said the refusal of the victims’ families to pay ransom, and an imminent military operation, were the breakthrough that led to the release.

“Nung malaman nilang wala silang makukuha [When they realized they won’t be getting anything], they were pushed against the wall. Wala na silang mapuntahan [They had nowhere to run],” Legarda said.

“The military operations in the past few days helped,” she said.

The senator said she was in constant contact with Drilon, who put her on speakerphone for her captors to hear.

At one point, Legarda said Drilon told her over the phone crying: “Loren, tell me if you guys can’t do it so I can accept my fate that they will behead us.”

Legarda said Drilon told her that Encarnacion’s hands were tied and was being prepared for beheading at one point.

It was at that instant that “I pressured them, I cajoled them, I appealed to them, I even threatened them. They should be freed,” Legarda related.

Legarda said Drilon’s group was “very upbeat and calm” though tired from the five-hour-long trek from the Sulu hinterlands.

Mayor Isnaji had been under pressure to secure the release of the captives, except that earlier Tuesday, Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said he had stopped all negotiations with the kidnappers.

Haider Isnaji also said he had been on the phone with the kidnappers around six times beginning with their first call at 6:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

“I told them that no P15 million is forthcoming, that both the government and ABS-CBN have a no-ransom policy,” he said, adding that the kidnappers “finally dropped the deadline.”

He said he was able to convince the kidnappers “to accept a livelihood package instead.”

Razon also said earlier Tuesday the police and military in Sulu were ready for any “contingency” but their “paramount concern” was the safe release of the three hostages.

Razon said that if there was any lesson from the kidnapping, it was also to properly exercise press freedom.

“Ang aral po dito laging sinasabi hindi natin puwedeng i-exercise press freedom na malalagay ang [The lesson here is we can’t exercise press freedom by putting] reporters or journalists in harm’s way, na hawak ng terrorista or criminal elements,” said Razon. With reports from Ed General and Julie S. Alipala Inquirer Mindanao and Alcuin Papa in Manila

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Written by joelguinto

Wed+00:002008-06-18T05:52:42+00:00+00:0006b+00:00Wed, 18 Jun 2008 05:52:42 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

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