More appeals aired to free the kidnapped filmmakers before Ramadhan

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 July) – Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate has appealed to the kidnappers of  sisters-filmmakers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil in Sulu to free them, in the spirit of Ramadhan.

Earlier, the Bansils’ brothers, Mohammed and Zackaria appealed to the kidnappers through the social networking site, YouTube, to free their sisters before Ramadhan, the Islamic month of fasting. Ramadhan is expected to start on Tuesday, July 9.

The sisters have been held in captivity for half a month.

“Ibigay nyo po ang mga kapatid namin bago po mag Ramadhan,” Zackaria said in the three-minute video uploaded on June 28.  The brothers delivered the appeal in Filipino.

“Maawa po kayo sa aming mga kapatid” (Please help our sisters), the brothers said, adding, “bilang kapwa Muslim, palayain ninyo sila” (as fellow Muslims, please release them).

In the same video, the brothers also appealed to President Aquino, the governors of Sulu and Maguindanao, religious leaders, Sultan Kiram; Nur Misuari, chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to help them secure the freedom of their sisters.

The Bansil sisters were abducted morning of June 22 in Patikul, Sulu,  while returning to Jolo.

In an earlier  press release, Senior Inspector Kris Conrad Gutierrez, Public Information Officer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Sulu said,  the sisters arrived by boat early morning of June 20 and was fetched at the Jolo wharf by the Sultanate of Sulu Darul Islam (SSDI) “ together with some personalities alleged to have connections with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).”

The group reportedly proceeded to the SSDI Building in  Km. 2, Indanan, Sulu, where they spent the night. SSDI is headed by Sultan Bantilan Muizidin. The press release identified the sisters as “members of the Tausug Citizen” under the SSDI.

On June 21, the sisters “together with the same group went to Mt. Sinumaan, a known bailwick of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Patikul and stayed there overnight. Saturday morning, June 22, the group left Mt. Sinumaan on foot passing for Brgy. Kabbon Takkas, Patikul, Sulu, where a vehicle was waiting to transport them back to Jolo. The two sisters were abducted in Sitio Bauno, Brgy. Liang, Patikul, Sulu, while on their way to Jolo town proper,” Gutierrez said.

The press release said the sisters and their hosts did not coordinate their visit with authorities. “The Provincial Government, LGU’s (local government units), PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) reiterates (their) call and enjoin all those planning to visit Sulu to observe proper coordination with authorities to ensure safety of our visitors and curtail opportunities of criminals to perpetrate offenses of similar nature.”

“I sympathize with the Bansil family and pray for the swift release of Nadjoua and Linda,”  said Zarate, the second Mindanawon to represent Bayan Muna in the House of Representatives.

Zarate issued his appeal “in the belief that the Muslim’s observance of the holy month of fasting,… includes the respect on the life of people and their liberty as part of the basic teachings of Islam.”

“Islam teaches peace and unity not only for the Moro people but for the whole world, and this observance is more pronounced during the holy month of Ramadhan,” he added.

The release of the sisters “will also spare the lives and livelihood of civilians who will be affected, as in the past, with the militarization of the area as a result of manhunt operations against the abductors,” he said.

Zarate, a lawyer and former journalist, appealed to the military and police officers to “also respect the right of the Moro people to observe the holy month of fasting,” noting that reports of manhunt operations continue, even during Ramadhan and that this is “a double burden for Muslims who have to get away from militarized and bombarded areas and at the same time religiously observing fast.”

The Zamboanga City chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) was the first to call for the release of the victims.

The group urged the military and police and the provincial, municipal and barangay governments in Sulu to coordinate and work on the release of the sisters.

The Peace and Conflict Journalism Network, where the sisters are members, also issued a similar appeal.

The Zamboanga Sibugay Media Practitioners’ Club also  joined the call for the release of the Bansil sisters.  (MindaNews)