SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / June 30, 2008) – Filipino Muslims in Sulu province have urged the Senate to open up investigations into reports that a huge ransom has been paid to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group that kidnapped a Philippine television news crew.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped on June 8 an ABS-CBN television presenter Ces Drilon and her cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, including a Muslim university professor Octavio Dinampo in the town of Maimbung.
Valderama was freed June 12 in exchange for P5 million ransom while the remaining hostages had been released five days later after private negotiators allegedly paid P15 million to the kidnappers, numbering about two dozens.
Police later arrested Indanan town Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and his son, Haider, who were both implicated in the kidnapping. Police also accused the politician of pocketing at least P3 million.
Isnaji, who was handpicked by the Abu Sayyaf to negotiate for the safe release of the captives, strongly denied the accusations.
“We want to know who was really behind the kidnapping and who benefited from the ransom because the money paid to the Abu Sayyaf is sure to go to the arsenal of the Abu Sayyaf group and we, Muslims, will again be tagged as terrorists and kidnappers by those who do not understand Islam.”
“Our province will again be branded as haven for terrorists and kidnappers or land of the Abu Sayyaf which is really unfair. Authorities should investigate who paid the ransom or the people behind it. We want to know the truth,” Amir Ibrahim, a trader, told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said many religious groups in Sulu also wanted the Senate to investigate the kidnapping of the ABS-CBN television news crew to know whether Isnaji was really behind it or not.
“The Muslims want to know the truth and not what we hear from the radio or television or read in the newspapers. Everybody must be investigated and all those who took part in the negotiations, including the police and military and the ABS-CBN, including our local leaders,” Ibrahim said.
Police said Drilon’s brother Frank paid P5 million ransom, but Isnaji allegedly paid only P2 million to the kidnappers. And Isnaji’s lawyer, Firdausi Abbas, claimed that another P15 million was paid to the captors by an unnamed Chinese businessman.
Ibrahim said the payment of ransom to the Abu Sayyaf will endanger many people in Sulu because the money could be used to purchase illegal weapons and fund terrorism and future kidnappings.
Police and military have failed to arrest any of the kidnappers since the release of the hostages.
Security officials previously said the number of the Abu Sayyaf has dwindled from several hundreds in the last five years to only a few dozens now and the military downgraded the group to plain bandits.
Washington listed the Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization and has offered as much as $5 million bounty for the capture of its known leaders. (Mindanao Examiner)