Duterte seeks help from MNLF to locate perpetrators in the Samal Island abduction

By Lilian C. Mellejor

DAVAO CITY, Sept. 25 (PNA) — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has sought the help of the local commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to locate the abductors of the three foreign and the Filipina who were snatched from the Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort at the Island Garden City of Samal last Monday.

Duterte said he has talked to MNLF commander of the Bangsamoro Army (BAMA) in Davao, Sonny Dabao, to help authorities in locating the abductors and hostages on search and rescue operation. He said Dabao promised to help.

The mayor is also set to talk to MNLF Chair Nur Misuari to seek for his help. He added that if the perpetrators and the hostages are in the mountains, the New People’s Army (NPA) would be able to track them, too.

When asked about the appeal of Remegio Flor, the father of abducted Filipina – Maritess Flor, to help for the release of his daughter, offered self in exchange for the release of all hostages. Remegio showed up at the Philippine National Police (PNP) regional office in Camp Catitipan on Wednesday afternoon to give additional information about her daughter. Remegio traveled to Davao City from Quezon, Bukidnon where they are residing.

“I offer myself as an alternative if they want it. I have done that before – I offer myself as a hostage if they would release the prisoners. I would gladly join them in the forest and enjoy their company,” Duterte said in an interview on Thursday night. He also apologized he could not give further information on the current operation of the police and military to find the abductors and their hostages.

This developed as authorities in Davao in coordination with other forces in neighboring regions continue scouring Davao Gulf and the coastal areas in the region and nearby provinces to track the abductors and their hostages – Canadian nationals John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56 and Filipina Marites Flor, who is the live-in partner of Hall.

“The government is covering a wide area in Mindanao,” Duterte said, referring to the ongoing operation of the military and the police.

While he keeps his distance on the issue in respect to the local leadership of Davao del Norte province and the Island Garden City of Samal, Duterte – the chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) XI, said he keeps his communications open with the police and army authorities to get updates.

It may be recalled that it was Duterte who alerted the police and military authorities that abduction happened at the Ocean View Resort after its owners called him minutes after the incident. Ocean View is owned by Ed and Gene Bangayan, who are his very close friends. The mayor had offered the city’s Task Force Davao and some police personnel and the equipment of the Central 911 for the search and rescue operation.

While he has some idea on the ongoing operation, Duterte apologized he is not at liberty to divulge anything in order not to jeopardize operations for the safe rescue of the four hostages.

Duterte wanted to believe that the group has not exited Davao. “Dito kasi it’s kind of hard – malayo (It is far here). They negotiate their way towards Basilan and Sulu if they really want a safe sanctuary for them with the victims –it’s a long shot,” he said.

He however admitted that operatives could face difficulty if the group has already exited Davao region and they are somewhere else in Zamboanga area down to Siasi in Sulu.

“Problem is they might have brought the hostages there but if they are really that good they have something powerful (motorboats) then they are in Sulu and Basilan by now,” the mayor said, referring to the Volvo engine-powered motorboats or locally known as Kumpit.

Duterte hinted to Abu Sayyaf or some Moro rebel insurgency factions but he readily apologized in advance if it turns out wrong.

“As of now I have no inkling,” said Duterte, adding that the abductors do not belong to a new group.

“It is not new group. If they are not criminals then they must be connected with someone else they must be professionals…maybe they have participated with some kidnappings before,” he said.

According to Duterte, the CCTV footage showed that the armed men’s movement is very precise and did not show any hesitancy or fear even just to look around if somebody is at their back.

Meantime, the mayor also dismissed speculations on the slow operation that it is already three days since the abduction, yet there is no solid development leading to the identity of the group. “This is not about how slow …there are things I cannot discuss for example – tracking them. It’s unfortunate I cannot talk about it,” he stressed. Duterte is however positive the authorities have leads to locate the group. (PNA)