PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ARMED men allegedly under the employ of Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and not the Abu Sayyaf were tagged as the kidnappers of ABS-CBN reporter Ces Orena-Drilon and three others last month, it was learned yesterday.
Sources said the Abu Sayyaf bandits were used as fall guys by the kidnappers.
“We’re looking at that information. Right now, we’re even inclined to believe that the kidnappers were not really Abu Sayyaf bandits but armed supporters of the Isnajis,” said a highly-reliable source from the Philippine National Police who demanded anonymity.
The source explained that blaming the Abu Sayyaf for the kidnapping is “the most convenient” excuse that can be cooked up by the “brains” in the abduction to mislead investigators.
Drilon, her cameramen Angelo Valderama and Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were seized on June 8 while on their way to an interview with Abu Sayyaf chieftain Radullan Sahiron.
The official said Valderama testified that some of the armed men who escorted him out of their jungle hideout appeared to be familiar with the group of policemen who met them when he was released on June 12.
“Imbes na naka-ready yung mga pulis, para bang magkakakilala sila nung mga kidnappers, parang pamilyar sila sa isa’t-isa at nagkamayan pa. Hindi ganoon ang actuation ng mga pulis natin kung totoong mga Abu Sayyaf yun,” the source quoted Valderama as telling investigators. Marines officials based in Sulu also said that the Abu Sayyaf was not involved in the case.
Drilon’s guide, Jumail Biyaw, also pointed to Mayor Isnaji and his son Haider as the masterminds of the kidnapping. In his affidavit, Biyaw said the Isnajis wanted to make money out of the interview and egged him not to back out.
“Nagtaka ako bakit nila alam at tinanong ko sila kung sino ang nagsabi sa kanila at sinagot ako ni Jun Isnaji na ikinuwento sa kanila ni Amrin,” Biyaw said in his affidavit. Amrin helped him set the interview with Sahiron.
Biyaw said that when he told the Isnajis that he was unsure if the interview would push through, the father-and-son team asked him not to back out. “Sinabihan ako ni Jun na ‘Ituloy ninyo yan at maganda yan, dahil kikita tayo diyan. Tinanong ko si Jun kung paano naman kami kikita sa interbiyu,” he said.
“Sabi ni Jun ay pwede nila ipa-kidnap at ipatubos ang mga taga ABS-CBN at sinabihan ako ni Mayor Isnaji na huwag mag-alala dahil siya ang bahala kasi kontrolado naman daw nila ang Indanan, Sulu kung saan magaganap ang interview at nakausap na niya si Amrin na sa Indanan, Sulu, dadalhin ang mag-iinterview at ng bandang huli ay pinagbantaan ako nila Mayor na tumahimik lamang para hindi ako ma-damay,” Biyaw said in his signed statement.
Sources said a P20 million ransom was paid for the release of Drilon and her group.