Thursday, May 28, 2009

Security forces track down kidnapped foreigner, Filipino companion in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 28, 2009) – The Philippine military launched fresh operation on Thursday to track down a foreigner and her Filipino companion kidnapped in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, a spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said security forces were tracking down the victims, Mafin Wo and Rochelle Amante, who were seized late Wednesday afternoon in Kabacan town in North Cotabato.

Ponce earlier reported that only Amante was taken by gunmen, but said Wo had also been kidnapped. Wo’s family owns the Atchan Enterprises in Kabacan town.

“We have verified today that both women were kidnapped by gunmen on Wednesday and there is an operation to trace their whereabouts,” he told reporters.

He said the gang’s get-away car had been recovered, but the fate of the women were unknown.

Ponce blamed the Pentagon gang for the latest kidnappings. He said the group was involved in many kidnappings in the past and ransom could be the motive behind this latest abduction.

He said the military is verifying the nationality of Wo after receiving intelligence reports that she could either be a South Korean or a Chinese citizen. “We still don’t know and there are reports saying Wo is a Korean or Chinese,” Ponce said.

Last week, suspected Pentagon Gang members freed a kidnapped Filipino-Chinese trader Christopher Yap after her family negotiated with his captors. Yap was snatched May 7 in Maguindanao province.

In February, a Filipino-Chinese hotelier Wilson Tan and his daughter Jennifer were kidnapped and freed after four days in captivity in Maguindanao. They were kidnapped in their house in Cotabato City.

Police blamed the Pentagon Gang for the kidnapping of Tan and his daughter. The kidnappers originally demanded P10 million ransoms for the safe release of the captives. The victims’ family did not say if they paid ransoms or not.

Kidnapping-for-ransom has virtually become a lucrative business and livelihood for rebels and criminal gangs in the southern Philippines because most of their victims opted to paying ransom or risk getting killed in captivity.

On Tuesday, three school teachers kidnapped in Zamboanga City were released in Basilan province after private negotiators allegedly paid huge ransom to Moro rebels.

The trio - Quizon Freires, 28; Janette Delos Reyes, 29; and Rafael Mayonado, 24 – were kidnapped at sea on January 23 while returning by boat from a break on Sacol Island in Zamboanga City. They were brought to Basilan province where the kidnappers originally demanded P6 million ransoms and eventually lowered this to P2.5 million for their safe release. (Mindanao Examiner)

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