Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sayyafs free one of two kidnapped aid worker in Southern Philippines

Abu Sayyaf militants freed on Thursday, October 30, 2008, one of two kidnapped aid workers, Esperancita Hupida, in the southern Philippine island of Basilan after 76 days in captivity. Hupida, the program director of the Nagdilaab Foundation, was brought to the Zamboanga Doctors Hospital in Zamboanga City. Militants are still holding Millet Mendoza in Basilan island, several nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. The Abu Sayyaf earlier demanded P7 million for the release of the hostages. Also shown in photos is Zamboanga Doctors Hospital nurse Vivian Dendiego who barred photographers from getting inside the hospital. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 30, 2008) – Abu Sayyaf militants freed Thursday one of two kidnapped aid workers after 45 days in captivity in Basilan island in the Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Esperancita Hupida, program director of the multi-awarded Nagdilaab Foundation, was released on a remote village near Tipo-Tipo town before sunrise, but militants held on to Millet Mendoza, a freelance aid worker.

Both Hupida and Mendoza were among 7 people kidnapped Sept. 15 in Tipo-Tipo’s Kabangalan village. Five other aid workers from the Christian Children's Fund had either escaped or freed by the Abu Sayyaf.

Hupida was released to private negotiators and it was not immediately known how much ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for her freedom. But the militants previously demanded P2 million for Hupida’s safe release.

“We don’t know whether ransom was paid or not, but we are monitoring the situation and is working closely with the provincial crisis management committee headed by Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakalahul,” Chief Superintendent Bensali Jabarani, the regional police chief, told the Mindanao Examiner.

Hupida was brought to Zamboanga City on a military boat early in the morning and attended a mass inside the naval base.

She was later brought to the Zamboanga Doctors Hospital for physical and medical examinations, but a nurse, Vivian Dendiego, prevented news photographers and journalists from getting inside the hospital.

The military had halted operations to rescue the hostages to pave way for a peaceful negotiation for their release. Mendoza was a former staff worker at the Office of Presidential Adviser to the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Father Angel Calvo, of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga, is also helping in securing the safe release of the remaining hostage. He said Hupida and Mendoza are community development workers who have been serving the Muslim areas in Basilan for many years now.

Different humanitarian and solidarity groups have condemned the kidnappings. The Christian Children's Fund and the Nagdilaab Foundation are both active in various peace and humanitarian projects in Basilan.

The military tagged the Abu Sayyaf group under Puruji Indama and Nur Hassan Jamiri as behind the kidnappings.

The Nagdilaab Foundation spun off the Isabela Foundation, which was organized many years ago by the Roman Catholic prelature of Basilan to provide community and humanitarian help to poor residents in the province.

The CCF, an international child-sponsorship group based in Virginia in the United States, has worked in the Philippines since 1954 and has been assisting more than 453,000 children and their families and contributed more than $7.8 million for community programs in the country.

The Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped nine people in recent months in Basilan and sent letters to Christians living on the island threatening them with harm if they do not embrace Islam. The letters were signed by Indama and Jamiri. (Mindanao Examiner)

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