DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 24 June) – “No ransom” was reportedly paid to the Abu Sayyaf to secure the release early Friday morning of the lone Filipina among four victims kidnapped in Samal nine months ago, returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said.
Dureza quoted Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan as saying the release of Marites Flor was a “gesture of goodwill” on the part of the Abu Sayyaf. “They knew that President –elect Rody wanted badly the release of these hostages,” he said.
The terrorist group has kidnapped hundreds of persons, including foreigners, in the last two decades.
The 38-year old Flor was dropped off by her captors in front of Tan’s residence at around 4:30 a.m. Friday in Jolo, Sulu and was presented to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte onstage at the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) parade grounds nearly 12 hours later, after the turnover of command from chief of police, Sr. Supt. Vicente Danao, Jr. to Sr. Supt. Michael John Dubria.
With Flor freed, only Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, remains in captivity. The two Canadian nationals who were seized along with them from a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal on September 21 last year, had been executed by the Abu Sayyaf – mining executive John Ridsdel on April 25 and Robert Hall, Flor’s fiancé, on June 13 for non-payment of P300 million ransom.
“We were able to negotiate,” Duterte said as Flor was presented to him onstage by Dureza and Tan. He said he was informed the Norwegian national “di pa naka-cross (was not able to cross) because of the rough seas.”
Dureza explained to reporters that there was no negotiation between Duterte and Abu Sayyaf but it was Tan who negotiated for Flor’s release.
Tan denied ransom was paid. He told MindaNews he has no
Asked why he opted to present Flor to Duterte instead of the incumbent President Aquino, Tan told MindaNews: “why should I?”
He said Aquino went to Sulu on June 15 and told them he had considered declaring martial law.
Aquino was responding to a reporter’s query if he had considered declaring martial law in the Abu Sayyaf areas. He said yes, particularly in Sulu, in the three weeks before the Abu Sayyaf’s ultimatum to execute Hall but the assessment was that it would require a lot of troops to implement it and there is no guarantee that it would yield positive results.
“Baka magkaroon pa ng negative results. Baka magkaroon ng dagdag na simpatya doon sa mga kalaban” (It might yield negative results and might gain more sympathy for the enemies), he said.
Tan, a member of the Liberal Party, ran for Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as an Independent but was defeated by LP partymate, reelectionist Mujiv Hataman.
Tan’s son, Abusakur II, was reelected as Governor while his wife, Nurunisah, was elected to the post he is vacating.
6 days before June 30
Flor’s release came six days before June 30, when Duterte takes his oath as the country’s 16th President and first Mindanawon to lead the nation.
Dureza said Duterte had spoken to the Norwegian foreign minister who sought help for the release of Sekkingstad.
Dureza has helped work on the release of kidnap victims, having served as Presidential Assistant for Mindanao in 1998 and in various posts under the Arroyo administration from 2001 to 2010, including the post of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Dureza said he learned about the impending release of Flor while in Oslo, Norway where he attended the June 14 and 15 talks with the National Democratic Front.
When he learned that Flor was due for release on Friday morning, he said he immediately flew to pick her up and waited until noontime, taking chances that Sekkingstad would be released as well.
“At 8:30 a.m., I stopped over in Zamboanga (City) but we knew she was already with us waiting in Jolo. We were waiting noontime for the possible release of the Norwegian,” he said.
Treated like dogs
Flor said they were treated like dogs by the Abu Sayyaf.
“Wala na yung dalawa. Ang fiance ko bago lang pinatay. (The two are gone. My fiancé was recently killed). Treatment nila parang aso kami, parang bata (They treated us like dogs, like children),” she said, adding “kung nagkamali binubugbug agad” (if you commit a mistake, they’d hit you).
She said she experienced being slapped by some members of the terrorist group.
Hall, Flor’s fiance, was beheaded on June 13. She said she was told that she would be next.
Flor recalled that a leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group woke her up at dawn Friday to tell her she would be taken somewhere.
She said as captives, their feet were cuffed at night. On Friday dawn, she was awakened by the leader of the group that held her captive, and ordered his men to remove her cuffs. She said they walked for some time until she boarded a vehicle that brought her in front of Tan’s residence.
Flor thanked Dureza, Tan and the “bagong (newly) elected President.”
From the DCPO, she was scheduled to leave for Bukidnon to be reunited with her family.
Days after the kidnapping, Flor’s parents appealed to Davao City Mayor Duterte to help them secure the release of their daughter. Duterte was not yet a Presidential candidate then.
Addressing his “mga kapatid kong Moro” (my Moro brothers), Duterte said he doesn’t want to fight with anybody “but there will be a time, ayaw ko lang sabihin, but I will have to confront Abu Sayyaf. It is not yet forthcoming.”
“Yung kidnapping nila must stop. It has given us (the country) a very bad image,” Duterte said.
He warned those who are thinking of joining the Abu Sayyaf, “kung hindi ka pa pumasok doon, wag ka nang pumasok (if you haven’t joined them, don’t) because there will be a reckoning of what really happened.”
He said he will pour money into social services to dissuade others from joining the terrorist group. (Antonio L. Colina IV and Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)