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ABS-CBN crew member freed -- officials
« on: June 13, 2008, 03:30:13 AM »
JOLO, Philippines--One of three TV journalists abducted by suspected Moro extremists was freed after five days in captivity in the southern Philippines late Thursday, and an official said a P2-million “board and lodging fee” was paid.

ABS-CBN cameraman Angelo Valderama was released around 7:30 p.m. to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula, said Undersecretary Amilasan Amilbajar of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Mindanao.

But prominent anchorwoman Ces Drilon and cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion were still in captivity, along with a Mindanao State University professor who had acted as their local guide.

”This is a positive development,” Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao police chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao told “We're happy even if one person only [has been released]."

From Sahidula, Valderama was brought to the home of Indanan town mayor Isnaji Alvarez, the chief negotiator, in Sulu around 9:30 p.m., Goltiao said.

Amilbajar said a P2-million "board and lodging fee" was paid in exchange for his freedom.

"These funds came from the two negotiators. These funds are their campaign funds," Amilbajar said.

"He looked okay, but he would be given a [medical] check-up," he said.

Alvarez said in a telephone interview that the kidnappers told him Valderama was being set free as a "gift."

The freed hostage told Alvarez that his two colleagues and professor Octavio Dinampo remained with the kidnappers and were unharmed.

Goltiao said a “middleman” fetched Valderama at an undisclosed location before he was brought to Alvarez’s residence.

Valderama is now under the protective custody of the Philippine National Police and will be presented to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Friday, said Goltiao.

The kidnappers, described as members of the Abu Sayyaf group that has been blamed for the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, were understood to have demanded up to P20 million ($454,000) in ransom.

The four were abducted on Sunday as they were heading to interview some Abu Sayyaf leaders.

In a phone interview, Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, chief of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command, said Valderama would be turned over to Major General Juancho Sabban, chief of the counter-terrorism unit Task Force Comet, at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in the provincial capital of Jolo.

“A while ago, they were on their way, Valderama was being transported,” Allaga said, adding he last talked to Sabban before 11 p.m. Thursday.

“This is unexpected. At least, they heeded the plea to free at least one of the captives,” Sahidula, one of the negotiators, said in an interview with reporters, aired on a late-night newscast.

Alvarez had earlier told reporters he had spoken with Drilon by telephone on Wednesday night.

ABS-CBN said Wednesday in a statement that it would abide by its policy of not paying ransoms, so as not to "embolden kidnap-for-ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk."

Unconfirmed reports said the local guide may have suffered a "mild" stroke.

Meanwhile, on the nearby island of Basilan, Muslim extremists kidnapped two Philippine Marines on Thursday and were demanding the release of detained Abu Sayyaf militant Sali Dungkal Alih in exchange, the military said.

Security forces arrested Alih in Basilan on May 6.

"They are offering us a concession -- give us the liberty of Alih and then we will release the Marines," said Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

Arevalo said the government was sticking to its position of not giving in to such demands.(,)

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