Abducted Chinese-Filipina trader freed in Maguindanao

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/24 May) — A Chinese-Filipina trader abducted 10 days ago was recovered early Tuesday morning in Maguindanao province, her release resulting from joint military pressure from government and Moro rebel forces, officials said.

Lt. Col Noel dela Cruz, 6th Infantry Division civil military office chief, said that Angelina Chew Mantique was abandoned by her kidnappers before dawn in a safe condition.

“It’s not clear if the family paid a ransom,” he said in a telephone interview.

But what was clear is that she was recovered as a result of the joint military actions by our troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, he added, referring to the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group.

Supt. Felicisimo Khu, Western Mindanao Director for Integrated Police Operations, also attributed the recovery to the cooperation of the MILF.

Mantique’s husband, however, said they give an unspecified amount to the kidnappers for her “board and lodging”.

The businesswoman’s kidnappers earlier reportedly demanded a P20-million ransom for her release.

AHJAG was agreed between the government and the MILF in May 2002 with the purpose of isolating and interdicting kidnap-for-ransom groups and other criminal gangs operating in or near MILF areas in Mindanao.

Its mandate since then was subject to renewal with the nod of the government and the MILF.

The decision to renew the AHJAG’s mandate for one year was reached during the GPH-MILF formal exploratory talks held last February 9-10, in Kuala Lumpur.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, said in a separate phone interview that Mantique was picked up by the representatives of the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities of the government and the Moro rebels.

“Our troops also exerted pressure against the kidnappers. They tracked them down and threatened them with gunshots,” Kabalu said.

He added that three suspected kidnappers were arrested by the MILF and were undergoing interrogation at Camp Darapanan, the Moro rebels’ bailiwick in Sultan Kudarat town.

Kabalu said that MILF guerillas launched military actions in the towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Talayan, Datu Piang and Kabuntalan, all in Maguindanao against Mantique’s abductors.

Mantique was recovered in Barangay Datu Datmuneg, a marshy area in Kabuntalan, he said.

She was on a wheelchair when she faced reporters this morning.

Mantique, owner of Sam’s Grocery store in Poblacion North Upi, was abducted from her store and dragged into a car by four armed men on May 14.

She was among the several members of the Filipino-Chinese community victimized by the spate of kidnappings in Southwestern Mindanao since last year. (Bong Sarmiento with reports from Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)