DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 Sept) — The three foreigners and a Filipino abducted nearly midnight Monday from the Holiday Oceanview Resort in the Island garden City of Samal have been brought by their kidnappers to Sulu, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), said, citing intelligence reports.
In his Sunday television program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa,” Duterte said he received reports from the intelligence community that the kidnappers and their victims passed through Glan, Sarangani, en route to the Abu Sayyaf stronghold in Sulu.
Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) told MindaNews Sunday that there is yet no confirmation that the kidnappers are in Sulu although he admits “there are indications but subject for validation.”
Sulu is one of the five provinces of the ARMM.
Like Hataman, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II told MindaNews the report has yet to be validated. “Hintay tayo ng report from the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police),” he said in a text message.
No demand for ransom has been made as of Sunday for the release of Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, a Norwegian, and Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, and Hall’s Filipina partner Marites Flor.
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).
The four were forcibly taken at 11:41 p.m. by 11 fully armed men believed to be an allied group of the Abu Sayyaf, Duterte said.
When he learned of the abduction, Duterte said he immediately coordinated with Task Force Davao commander Col. Cristobal Zaragoza and Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director Vicente Danao and likewise informed officials of the Philippine Coast Guart (PCG) and the Navy to assist local authorities in Samal in the monitoring.
“Sabi ko dahan-dahan lang baka madisgrasya ang mga turista (I told them to be careful not to endanger the lives of the tourists),” he said.
He added that he has distanced himself from the operations to rescue the victims since the kidnapping transpired outside his area of jurisdiction and out of respect for Samal mayor Aniano Antalan and Davao del Norte governor Rodolfo del Rosario.
“Wala man nangayo (They haven’t sought our help),” he said.
He added he only responded when the reports of the abduction reached him because he is a friend of the Bangayans, owner of the resort.
Duterte said that even as chair of the RPOC, he has no direct control over other parts of Davao Region.
But in a statement sent via SMS and read by former Armed Forces chief of staff Hermogenes Esperon before thousands of supporters who gathered in Luneta Saturday to urge Duterte to run for President in 2016, Duterte apologized he could not be at the Luneta as he was in Zamboanga City to “help find a solution” to secure the release of the three foreigners and a Filipina kidnap victims seized in Samal.
Duterte’s Sunday television program was taped on Friday night. Duterte made a quick visit to Zambonga City Saturday afternoon, his aide told MindaNews.
Duterte said he does not believe that the kidnapping was done to discredit him in relation to the 2016 polls.
“Tan-aw nako walay rason na buhaton na sa ako. Dili pa nato mahibaw-an util such time na mag-communicate na (I think they have no reason to do that against me. We cannot know their motive until they communicate with us),” he said.
Duterte theorized that the victims were not pre-determined targets and the kidnapping has nothing to do with Ridsdel’s being President of a mining firm.
“That’s a far-out theory. It has nothing to do with mining,” he said.
Duterte said the intelligence community still has no update on the situation of the victims.
“Walay idea kung kinsa buhi o patay, if at all, naay nadisgrasya (We don’t have any idea who’s still alive or dead, if at all, anything bad had happened,” he said.
In an interview on Thursday evening, Duterte said there were lapses in the intelligence unit of the region.
Duterte joined a command conference months ago and found out that there was a threat on Samal.
“Sorry to say, I do not want to disappoint the people in the intelligence community. Many months ago, I figured there was a Task Force Samal to guard the island because of its long coast and you have to guard every inch of it,” he said.
Duterte added the New People’s Army (NPA), which was linked to the kidnapping because of a handwritten note that was left at the gate of the resort, has no hand in the incident.
“NPAs do not kidnap for money and it’s an ideological thing,” he said. “If they are in the mountains of Davao, the NPAs would know,” he said.
Duterte assured foreigners are safe in Davao City. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews with a report from Carolyn O. Arguillas)