Released kidnap victim wants to pursue work as nurse abroad

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/1 March) – The kidnapped nurse released last Monday said she wants to pursue her dream of working abroad.

Maricris Cuartocruz, 21, was freed by her abductors Monday evening, more than two months since she was abducted right in her own home. The gunmen killed her grandfather, Jesus Sogradiel, 72, who tried to come to her rescue while her mother, Elena, was mauled.

“I will have to move on and work abroad,” Cuartocruz said in a press conference Tuesday morning. She arrived at Camp Batalla accompanied by her mother and other relatives.

Cuartocruz, who works as a volunteer nurse at the government-owned Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC), was about to leave and work abroad when she was abducted by 10 gunmen evening of December 14 last year from her home in Barangay Manicahan, 20 kilometers east of this city.

She was freed around 6:45 p.m. Monday in Barangay Timbang-Timbang, Alicia, Zamboanga Sibugay by alleged “lost command” rebels after spending 76 days in captivity.

Cuartocruz, who is now a Muslim convert, said she will reapply for a nursing job abroad.

She said she converted to Islam after being convinced by her captors who she said treated her well while in captivity. She was given the name Princess Hannan.

Her mother said her daughter is free choose her own religion.

Cuartocruz, who has gained weight, said that before her release she was kept captive in a house surrounded by coconut trees where she was fed by her captors with rice, vegetables, crabs and prawns.

But she said that during the early days of her captivity, she experienced sleeping in a tent in a mangrove area for 11 days guarded by three armed men.

“They told me that we were in Basilan province, in Lamitan at that time,” Cuartocruz said, admitting she does not know the place.

But Chief Supt. Elpidio de Asis, Zamboanga Peninsula Police Office (ZPPO) director, does not believe Cuartocruz was brought to Basilan. He said they suspect a group behind the kidnapping and the possible area where the abductors are based.

Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo, Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) director, said the kidnappers are “lost command” rebels who are also involved in the kidnapping of three teachers in March of 2009 in Bangkaw-Bangkaw, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

De Ocampo disclosed that the Cuartocruz family, who is into rice trading, paid “goodwill money” to the kidnappers in exchange for the release of the nurse.

This was confirmed by Cuartocruz’s mother, Elena, during the press conference but begged off to disclose the specific amount.

The kidnappers initially demanded a P10-million ransom but was later lowered to P7 million, the elder Cuartocruz said.

De Asis said the negotiation for the release of Cuartocruz was kept under wraps following the request of the victim’s mother.

He said they will file an amended complaint in pursuing the criminal case against the kidnappers.

A case had been filed earlier by the ZCPO and arrested Cuartocruz’s uncle, Pedro Sogradiel Jr., who is allegedly involved in the kidnapping.

Two of the other suspects were identified earlier by De Ocampo as Mubin Bakwang and Jaidin Abdusalam alias Abu Jai, who are still at large. (MindaNews)