Authorities have no clue yet on group behind Samal kidnapping

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ISLAND GARDEN CITY OF SAMAL (MindaNews/24 Sept) — The joint military and police forces have not established the identity of the group that abducted three foreigners and a Filipina at Holiday Oceanview Samal Resort here nearly midnight Monday.

In a press briefing at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 on Wednesday, Chief Supt. Federico Dulay, Jr., chief of the Special Investigation Task Group Ocean View said they are trying to establish the group’s identity by comparing its tactics with the modus operandi of other groups who previously figured in kidnapping incidents.

He added that it is not conclusive that the rebel group New Peoples Army (NPA) was behind the incident just because of a note that was left at the gate of the resort, treating this as a possible diversionary tactic by the group who was behind the kidnapping.

Yachts dock at Holiday Oceanview in Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal two days after three foreign nationals and a Filipina were abducted at the resort, Monday evening in this photo taken on September 23, 2015. One of the guests is Canadian national John Ridsdel who is the president of TVI Minerals Processing Incorporated. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano Yachts dock at Holiday Oceanview in Barangay Camudmud, Island Garden City of Samal two days after three foreign nationals and a Filipina were abducted at the resort, Monday evening in this photo taken on September 23, 2015. One of the guests is Canadian national John Ridsdel who is the president of TVI Minerals Processing Incorporated. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“The NPA is part of the investigation but we are also investigating other groups,” he said.

The NPA usually issues formal statements if it has perpetrated an act.

“There are so many groups, maybe gangs in other areas. We are consolidating all our efforts that will lead to the identification of the group,” he said.

A composite sketch was released Wednesday, describing one of the suspects as male, between 25 to 30 years old, medium built, dark, and between 5’2 to 5’3 in height, based on the description given by couple Steven and Kazuka Tripp who managed to jump off the yacht after resisting the kidnappers.

Special Investigation Task Group Ocean View head Chief Superintendent Federico Dulay admits that they still have to identify the group or groups behind the abudction of three foreign nationals and a Filipina at a resort in Island Garden City of Samal last Monday evening. He made the statement during a press conference in Camp Quentin Merecido, Buhangin, Davao City on September 23, 2015.MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano Special Investigation Task Group Ocean View head Chief Superintendent Federico Dulay admits that they still have to identify the group or groups behind the abudction of three foreign nationals and a Filipina at a resort in Island Garden City of Samal last Monday evening. He made the statement during a press conference in Camp Quentin Merecido, Buhangin, Davao City on September 23, 2015.MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

On Monday evening, 11 fully armed men forcibly took Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian, and Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, and Hall’s Filipina partner Marites Flor from the resort.

Dulay said they could not confirm if Ridsdel is an executive of a mining company, pending results of the investigation. He added they have yet to confirm with Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is he is doing any business in the country.

Ridsdel is president of TVI Minerals Processing, Inc. a firm providing mineral mining services, with main office in Pasig City but with business interests in Mindanao. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for 2015-2016 of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (CanCham Philippines).
Ridsdel was Senior Vice President and Chief Executive officer of the TVI Resource Development from August 2008 to April 2011. TVIRD, which first operated a gold and silver mine in Canatuan, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, is the Philippine affiliate of TVI Pacific, Inc., a publicly listed Canadian mining company focused on the exploration and production of precious and base metals from district-scale, large-system, high-margin projects located in the Philippines.

In a separate press conference before noon at the Task Force Davao, Police Regional Office (PRO) 11 spokesperson Superintendent Antonio Rivera said what they know of two the Canadians is that they are just tourists.

He identified Sekkingstad as the resort’s operation manager who went outside to check on the commotion.

No ransom money has been demanded for the release of the victims.

Citing eyewitness accounts, Rivers said there was a sighting of two motorized bancas, the other boat was smaller, plying nearby.

He added they have coordinated with the PNP’s Cybercrime Division what they can do to enhance the closed circuit television camera (CCTV) footage to make the images of the suspects much clearer.

Reports also reached the authorities that there were motorized bancas heading to Davao Oriental prompting them to deploy security forces but when the troops reached the area, it turned out negative.

“There are so many foreigners visiting our places so anybody can report they have sighted a foreigner in this particular area because Davao Region is a tourist area,” he said.

The military and the police have already dispatched sea patrol boats and helicopters to monitor the gulf.

He said they cannot exactly pinpoint the suspects’ location but they are hoping that they are still within Davao Region.

He said they are having difficulty monitoring the entire Davao Gulf because it is so wide that boats that can run faster can possibly escape. But he claimed all exit points have been blocked to prevent the suspects from escaping by sea while checkpoints have also been mounted across the region.

“All probable exits are being monitored. Lahat ng personnel on the ground, police stations, members of the AFP are in areas na pwedeng daanan,” he added.

The entire Davao Region is on high alert status, Rivera said.

Dulay added they have already coordinated with other regions in Mindanao to report to them if there’s sighting of any suspicious boats plying within their areas of jurisdiction.
Davao del Norte Provicial Police Office director Senior Supt. Samuel Gadingan said they have beefed up security measures in the island city by their increasing police presence.

He encouraged resort owners to coordinate with local authorities to assess how many security guards should be deployed in resorts, considering the land area, to ensure the entire facility is well monitored.

He said some of the private resorts are not cooperating with the authorities.

In the case of Oceanview, for instance, he added that there were lapses in the security as there were only three security guards deployed at the time of kidnapping.

“There are resorts that are private in nature that even our security forces cannot enter those resorts. We need cooperation,” he said.

He added that the city government has called for a meeting with resort owners on how they can implement a better security plan in the island.

Newly-installed Task Force Davao commander Col. Cristobal Zaragoza said they are extending assistance to TF Samal for the next three to four days.

“There’s no absolute security, kahit itaas ang bakod mo mananakawan ka pa rin. Davao City has a very good security system. Mas lalo pinag-igting ang security,” he said.

Off limits

The Oceanview resort has suspended operations.

Davao and Manila-based journalists who went to the resort were told operations have been suspended pending investigation on the abduction.

The security personnel who were there told reporters they had just been assigned there to replace the guards on duty at the time of the kidnapping

But a few yachts were still docked at the resort.

Gloria Manlapos, 59, whose husband works as a laborer at the resort, said they were shocked and worried that the kidnapping might drive the tourists away.

A resort owner who declined to be named said the security in the island has been lax, perhaps because no one was expecting an abduction would happen.

“Pati kami walay contact details sa mga police dire (We don’t even have the contact details of the police here),” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)

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