3 construction workers rescued in Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 15 Jan) – Government forces have rescued three employees of a construction firm undertaking a government project an hour after suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits seized them Thursday in the municipality of Akbar in Basilan.

Capt. Eugene Espino, Joint Task Group Basilan information officer, identified them as Edgar Francisco, 40; Sommy Siason, 17; and Alex Francisco, 18, all of CNJ construction firm based in Isabela City.

Espino said the victims were seized around 8:35 a.m. Thursday in Barangay Caddayan where the construction firm is undertaking a government project.

Espino said the victims were aboard a dump truck when the suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Abdulhassan Tabadjanul flagged them down and seized them.

He said task group troops, in coordination with the police and municipal government officials, launched pursuit operations that forced the bandits to release the victims an hour after.

Engr. Muctar Muarip, owner of the construction firm, said his family, whose members are residents of Akbar, also helped in the safe rescue of his employees.

Muarip said the motive behind the abduction was extortion since they earlier received a demand to pay protection money.

The incident took place two days after a grenade explosion destroyed a vibratory roller compactor heavy equipment of the Basilan provincial government.

Senior Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamitan City police chief, disclosed the incident took place around 9 p.m. Tuesday at a government project site in the boundaries of Barangay Parangbasak, Lamitan City and Barangay Bohebaca, Tipo-Tipo town.

He said that none was killed nor injured in the grenade explosion.

Gallardo said that the Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO) is undertaking a farm-to-market-road project in the area.

Both the police and military authorities believed that the motive of the incident was extortion.

Engr. Nasser Abdulgani, PEO officer-in-charge, has told the police that they have received a text message earlier from the Abu Sayyaf bandits demanding P900,000 protection money “as one time bill.”

He said the incident will not hinder the implementation of the road project in the boundaries of Lamitan City and Tipo-Tipo municipality.