Kidnapped trader freed in Jolo as 2 teachers seized in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 6 Sept) – Suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits released Thursday afternoon in Jolo, Sulu a businesswoman who was kidnapped along with a relative here five months ago, the police said Friday.

Senior Supt. Abraham Orbito, Sulu police director, said that Nancy Gonato, 38, who is into marine product trading, was freed around 4 p.m.

Gonato’s relative, Ronnie Sandagon, 50, a former councilor of Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay, remains in captivity.

The released kidnap victim owns the Ocean World Marine Products.

Five gunmen who pretended to be dealers of marine products seized Gonato and Sandagon noon last April 7 in their buying station at Taha Wharf, Barangay Baliwasan, this city.

Orbito said Gonato was freed unharmed following negotiations with a civilian emissary, who brought her to Sulu Gov. Abdulsakur Tan II.

Orbito said he is not aware of any ransom paid since the provincial government, along with a non-government organization (NGO) partner, worked out for the release of Gonato.

He said he believed that the continued military and police actions could have served as a contributory factor and pressured the Abu Sayyaf bandits to release the victim.

He described Gonato to be in good condition when freed but still she was taken to a military hospital for medical checkup as a matter of procedure once a kidnap victim is released.

The freed hostage immediately reunited with her family after she was brought to this city by a military helicopter.

Orbito disclosed that they are trying to obtain information concerning the fate and whereabouts of Sandagon, who was left behind in captivity.

Meanwhile, the Basilan-based 104th Infantry Brigade has launched operations in a bid to rescue the two teachers of a charity foundation abducted Wednesday by gunmen in Lantawan town.

The victims, Frederick Banot and Cherden Masong, were seized by gunmen from their staff house around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sitio Wharf Pangasaan, Barangay Tairan in Lantawan.

Banot and Masong are both teachers of the Charity Children Foundation, Inc. (CCFI), which is an extension service of the Basilan prelature, focusing on literacy program for the Badjao and Yakan children in this province.

Col. Carlito Galvez, commander of the 104IB, disclosed that he immediately deployed troops from the Army’s 14th Special Forces Company to track down the whereabouts of the victims.

Galvez has also deployed intelligence operatives to monitor the coastal areas of Lantawan, Maluso and Hadji Muhtamad municipalities to trace the location of the suspects’ hideout.