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ABS-CBN says it won't pay ransom for Ces Drilon, team
« on: June 12, 2008, 07:49:47 AM »
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Broadcast network ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday said it would not pay ransom to Abu Sayyaf militants who are holding its news crew.

The Abu Sayyaf is demanding P10 million for the safe release of the hostages, according a military report.

Militants are holding the network's senior reporter Cecilia Victoria "Ces" Oreña-Drilon and her two cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, including a university professor Octavio Dinampo.

The four were intercepted near the village of Kulasi in Maimbung town on June 8 while on their way to clandestinely interview a senior Abu Sayyaf terror leader Radulan Sahiron, who is said to be planning to surrender.

"ABS CBN News journalists Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion, and Angelo Valderama have been kidnapped for ransom. ABS CBN News is doing everything it can to help the families of its kidnapped journalists through this harrowing ordeal," the television network said in a statement released on Wednesday.

"However, ABS CBN News will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk," it added.

Police said the hostages are still alive, but it was unclear where the Abu Sayyaf is hiding the victims. "They are alive. We have sources who told us that all four hostages are alive," Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, commander of police forces in the Muslim autonomous region, told the GMANews.TV.

Goltiao said there are efforts to negotiate with the kidnappers for the release of the hostages. "There are options here and one if to locate the hostages and negotiate for their safe release," he said.

He said the police are closely coordinating with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, the head of the local Crisis Management Committee, in resolving the problem peacefully. "Governor Sakur Tan and the crisis committee are working hard to resolve this problem," he said.

Police have tagged Gafur Jumdail and Albader Parad, a young, but notorious Abu Sayyaf leader who is wanted both by Washington and Manila for terrorism and killings, as behind the kidnappings. "As far as we know, Parad and Gafur are behind the kidnappings," Goltiao said.

Parad's group was also tagged as behind the kidnapping early this year of Maria Rosalie Lao, 58, a rice trader in Jolo town.

He was among the Abu Sayyaf militants that seized 21 people, mostly Asian and European tourists in April, 2000 from the Malaysian island-resort of Sipadan. Last year, Parad's group also kidnapped seven people in Sulu and beheaded them after their families failed to pay up ransom.

Parad is also included in the terror list both of Washington and Manila for his involvement in the spate of terror attacks and kidnappings of foreigners. The US has offered up to $750,000 bounty for Parad's capture.

The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, also offered to help secure the release of Drilon's team which arrived in Sulu on June 7 from Zamboanga City.

Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim said Drilon did not coordinate with them when they arrived in Sulu. She also declined military escorts. He said the victims were believed taken to the hinterlands of Indanan town.

Drilon's group is billeted at the Sulu State College hostel in Jolo town where they took two rooms and left on Saturday afternoon after ordering foods good for 20 people.

A hotel staff said he saw Drilon hurriedly left and even asked her where she was going. "She was really in a hurry and I even asked her where they were going and Ces Drilon only replied that they would just be nearby. They never came back since Saturday."

Drilon's group was the second from the television network to be kidnapped in Sulu in the past eight years. Reporter Maan Macapagal and her cameraman Val Cuenca were also kidnapped on the island while working on exclusive news on the Abu Sayyaf.

Independent journalist Arlyn dela Cruz was also kidnapped in Sulu while covering the Abu Sayyaf. Another photojournalist Gene Boyd Lumawag was shot in the head by an Abu Sayyaf militant while shooting the sunset in Sulu several years ago.

The Abu Sayyaf had also seized foreign journalists covering the group's kidnapping of 21 Asian and Western holidaymakers from Sabah. It also kidnapped in the past local traders and most of those kidnapped were freed in exchange for ransom, but many were also raped and killed. -

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Dreaded Malaysian terrorist holding Drilon
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2008, 08:50:55 AM »
Latest update from Philippine Star...

Ces, TV crew in JI custody
By Roel Pareño
Thursday, June 12, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY – A Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) bomb expert with a $5-million bounty on his head is holding broadcast journalist Ces Oreña-Drilon and her two cameramen in a remote jungle base of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, military sources said yesterday.

Authorities, meanwhile, have begun negotiations with the kidnappers for the release of Drilon, a reporter of ABS-CBN News, and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama. Police said on Tuesday that the terrorists had released Drilon’s guide, Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo.

In a statement, ABS-CBN finally admitted that the group had been kidnapped. The network ruled out paying ransom.   

“ABS-CBN News is doing everything it can to help the families of its kidnapped journalists through this harrowing ordeal,” it said.

“However, ABS-CBN News will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap-for-ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk.”

It was earlier reported that the terrorists were demanding a $10-million ransom.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said a crisis management team has been formed to negotiate with the rebels. It was not clear if it was the same group that has begun talks with the extremist group. Tan said no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome said a crisis management committee has designated a negotiator to work for the release of the journalists.

“The negotiator is somebody who has better grasp of the area,” said Bartolome. “The negotiator has started to locate groups or individuals who could help us locate Drilon’s group.”

A military source who declined to be named said Malaysian JI bomb expert Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Abu Sayyaf leaders Umbra Jumdail alias Dr. Abu Pula, Albader Parad, and a certain Jimla and Albi were holding the missing journalists

“As of now Ces and her crew are with Abu Pula and Zulkifli Marwan and other Abu Sayyaf militants in the jungle base,” the source said.

A US-trained engineer, Zulkipfli of Muar, Johor in Malaysia is principal suspect in many bombing attacks in the Philippines where he has been in hiding since August 2003 and training Islamic militants in handling explosive devices.

The US government placed a $5-million reward for his capture.

‘Great possibility’ of release

Autonomous Region In Muslim Mindanao police Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao said there was a “great possibility” that the journalist would be freed, but would not say who was involved in the negotiations.

“Negotiations are being conducted,” Goltiao said in a radio interview.

“There is a great possibility that we will obtain the release of Ces Drilon... but we cannot give an exact date.”

It is understood, although not confirmed officially, that the kidnappers may have dropped their original ransom demand and are now asking payment for “billeting” the hostages which means the same thing but could be more acceptable.

Military spokesman Col. Ernesto Torres said “there is a lot of information coming in (about Drilon) so we are continuously validating all of this information.”

He reiterated the government’s position against paying ransom to kidnappers.

Drilon is the third local journalist to be kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf since 2000.

Goltiao also appealed to reporters not to come to Jolo to cover the Drilon kidnapping. “We cannot safeguard them all and they may enter unsecured areas without our knowledge and what happened to Ces may happen to them,” he said.

Int’l media groups alarmed

The abduction of Drilon and her crew has been widely criticized by journalism groups both here and abroad.

“We hope that those who have abducted the journalists and their guide will hear the appeals being made on their behalf by many of the country’s leading figures,” said the international press group Reporters Without Borders.

The Paris-based group said the Abu Sayyaf had been responsible for the kidnapping of more than 30 journalists over the years.

“Taking hostages is unacceptable. We call on all those (who) could have any influence over the kidnappers to try to get Drilon and her colleagues released.”

“The fears held for the ABS-CBN crew are a stark reminder that journalism in the Philippines has not ceased to be an incredibly dangerous profession and we honor those journalists who work for press freedom under such difficult circumstances,” said the Asia-Pacific branch of the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

“Media owners must ensure that adequate preparations and safety measures are provided for all journalists and media workers who report from especially dangerous regions in the Philippines,” it added.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety of these three journalists,” said Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

“It is great cause for concern that this volatile southern region of the Philippines remains insecure for the press, and we call on local authorities to work diligently to secure their safe and swift release,” he said.

Palace positive

At Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita expressed optimism that the kidnapped journalists would not be harmed by their captors even as he assured that the authorities were doing everything to secure their release.

In his weekly briefing at the Palace, Ermita said the President was deeply concerned about the incident.

While the Abu Sayyaf is generally believed to be behind the kidnapping, Ermita said he is not ruling out the complicity of other armed groups including rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front or the bigger Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Until we get the safety of the victims, we cannot know for sure who (is behind this),” Ermita said.

He said they have not received any information that may indicate that any of the victims may have been harmed.

Ermita said Drilon and her team should have coordinated their activities in the area with the local authorities.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, for his part, stressed that the kidnapping of Drilon and her crew was not a big blow to the government’s anti-terror efforts.

According to Gonzalez, the government’s drive against terrorism has led to the conviction, imprisonment, death and deportation of 689 terrorists and their sympathizers.

“Not even the United States, with all its modern technology can match our record. We have successfully arrested some terrorists which even the US with all its wealth of surveillance equipment and monitoring devices cannot apprehend,” Gonzalez said. He also ruled out a news blackout on the kidnapping.

“A news blackout is not practical at this point. A news blackout should be instituted when an operation to rescue the hostage is about to be put into action,” Gonzalez said.

Gov’t to blame

Former President Joseph Estrada said the Arroyo administration is to blame for the latest kidnapping because it returned camps captured by the government to the MILF after his ouster.

Estrada said the camps turned over to the MILF provided sanctuaries to secessionist and bandit groups.

“I was right from the very start when I overran the 46 camps of the MILF. Kidnappings would no longer be in Mindanao had this administration did not return the camps to the MILF. Had they not returned the camps to MILF, Mindanao would have been very peaceful and very progressive now,” Estrada said.

“We wiped them out. Hashim Salamat left already for Malaysia. We removed the flag of the MILF in Mindanao. But they returned it,” he said in an interview.

“We must just pray for the victims that nothing bad will happen to them,” Estrada said.

A cascade of prayers

Various religious and civic organizations offered prayers for the immediate release of Drilon and her two cameramen.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news service CBCPNews reported that the Mindanao Peace Caucus offered an ecumenical prayer for the group outside the Alumni Office of the Ateneo de Davao University.

The vicar general of the Prelature of Marawi Fr. Chito Soganub also offered prayers for the victims.

Nuns from the Sisters of Saint Joseph the Worker (SSWJ) have also offered prayers for the kidnap victims.

“We have asked other people to pray for the victims’ immediate relatives, patience and enlightenment for the negotiators and for the spirit of love to prevail in the hearts and minds of the abductors,” Sr. Aida S. Bano, SSJW administrator said

The Carmelites Monastery in Malaubang, Ozamiz City and the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Cross have also joined the prayer brigade for the kidnapped journalists.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao PeaceWeavers denounced Goltiao for insinuating that Dinampo might be in cahoots with the kidnappers.

“This statement of the highest ranking police officer in the autonomous region does not only undermine the already precarious security of Prof. Octa but also casts aspersion on the entire peace movement in Mindanao,” the group said. “We condemn this in no uncertain terms.” With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mike Frialde, Marvin Sy, Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan, Jose Katigbak
Live out of your imagination, not your history.
 -- STEPHEN COVEY
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