GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 May) — Kidnappers released unharmed the four businessmen from this city who were seized in Maguindanao province on March 29 after the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
Raulito Suyom Sr., father of kidnap victim architect Raulito Jr., said Tuesday his son and business partners Jayson Cababayao, Francis Wong Sepulvida and Rho Steven Bochurno were freed by their captors “somewhere in Maguindanao” last April 28.
He said the release, which was initially kept under wraps due to security reasons, came following a series of negotiations with the kidnappers that eventually led to the ransom payment.
“I will not deny that ransom was paid for their release. But it was just a minimal amount,” he said in an interview over dxES Bombo Radyo.
Suyom said the four victims were released at around 4 a.m. on April 28 and were abandoned at a portion of the Cotabato-Isulan highway.
He said they then boarded a van bound for this city and were reunited with their families several hours later.
“They were mainly in great shape and appeared to have been treated well during their ordeal,” he said.
The four, who were partners of a newly-formed construction business, were on their way to meet a prospective client in Cotabato City for a supposed construction project when they were abducted on March 29.
The victims were last seen leaving the city aboard a Mitsubishi Strada pickup, which was found abandoned several days later.
Victim Jayson Cababayao, whose family owns the J Trade Concrete Products and Construction Supply here, told reporters that a supposed wealthy businessman initially established contact with their partner architect Raulito Jr. in early March to seek assistance regarding a resort development project near Cotabato City.
He said the investor signified to commission Raulito Jr. and their firm for the development of the design and the construction of the project.
They later agreed to a meeting in Cotabato City to discuss the details of the project and visit the site later on, he said.
Cababayao said they left the city aboard his pickup at around 8 a.m. last March 29 along with a woman who was supposed to serve as their guide.
Upon reaching a portion of Dalican in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, he said they were met by a motorcycle-riding man who will reportedly guide them to the investor’s farm.
They followed the supposed guide to an unfamiliar area where they were met by a group of armed men who then declared the kidnapping, he said.
Cababayao said they were tied up and kept in the area for several days and later transferred to another location.
“They took all our belongings — our vehicle, laptops, cellphones and other valuables. They even asked for the passwords of our Facebook accounts,” he said
He said the suspects later told them that they would contact our parents for the ransom negotiations.
“They were updating us about the negotiations from time to time but always claimed that they were getting nowhere. So we were really surprised when they decided to release us last April 28,” he said.
Before they were abandoned along the national highway, he said the suspects gave P1,100 in cash for their passenger van fare to this city.
Suyom credited the release of the victims to the efforts of the Philippine National Police’s anti-kidnapping group and several “Muslim and Christian leaders.”
“They were released due to the concerted efforts of various parties and not just because of the ransom payment,” he said.
Chief Insp. Aldrin Martin Gonzales, public information officer of the Police Regional Office 12, told MindaNews that the operations are currently ongoing against the kidnappers.
But he declined to issue further details, noting the case is being handled by the Police Regional Office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PRO-ARMM).
He said they are currently coordinating with the PRO-ARMM for the investigation of the case and for other necessary operations. (MindaNews)