PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — NEGOTIATIONS are under way to effect the safe recovery of veteran ABS-CBN reporter Ces Orena-Drilon and her two assistants who were seized by suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists in Indanan, Sulu last Sunday, security officials said yesterday.
A report from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office said Drilon and her two unidentified assistants were accompanied by Mindanao State University-Sulu Professor Octavio Dinampo in going to Bgy. Kulasi in Maimbung town 10 a.m. Sunday.
The four were on board a yellow Toyota Tamaraw Jitney when they were blocked by a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists led by Albader Parad and Gapul Jumdail before being taken to the nearby Bgy. Karawan in Indanan town.
According to ARMM police director, Chief Supt. Joel R. Goltiao, their initial investigation showed that Drilon and her two assistants arrived at the Jolo Airport 2:45 p.m. Saturday on board a Sea Air flight. They then proceeded to the Sulu State College Hostel in Patikul where they rented two rooms.
Goltiao said the Sulu Provincial Police Office and the Maimbung and Indanan Municipal Police Stations are still monitoring the progress of the alleged kidnapping incident.
Goltiao said that Philippine National Police chief, Director General Avelino I. Razon Jr. called him up shortly after word spread out that Drilon and her crew were missing. He then called the provincial police chief of Sulu and asked him to work on the case.
“We were surprised na nandito pala sila Ces Drilon sa area ko and the report that I got from the Crisis Management Committee said that the group of Albader Parad was behind the incident,” Goltiao said.
He said that Sulu Governor Sakur Tan was tapped as the chief negotiator to ensure the safety of the three ABS-CBN employees. “Up to now ay wala ring demands ang grupo na nag-hold kila Ces Drilon,” Goltiao said.
Goltiao said the group of Albader Parad was the same group which held and later released former Armed Forces National Capital Regional Command chief and now Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino in Sulu last February.
PNP coordinates with ABS-CBN
The PNP chief said they got word about the ransom allegedly being demanded but are checking which group is making the demand and how much is it.
“We are coordinating with ABS-CBN and have requested them to treat Ces’ case with caution specially in releasing details,” he said.
Razon said the chief of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office, the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response and the Intelligence Group are coordinating with the Armed Forces and ABS-CBN management in investigating the case.
Razon also said they still don’t have concrete evidence that the Abu Sayyaf Group is behind the incident and added that Maimbung, Sulu is not considered an Abu Sayyaf bailiwick.
He also called on journalists trying to venture into known rebel territories in Mindanao to coordinate first with the police and the military for their own protection. He said that security escorts can be given to those who want it.
He said that Drilon and company did not coordinate their visit to local police and military officials.
Senators condemn abduction
SenateMinority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has appealed to the Armed Forces leadership and local leaders in Sulu to exert all means to secure the safe release of broadcast journalists and a professor from their alleged Abu Sayyaf abductors.
Senators Loren Legarda, Rodolfo Biazon and Ramon Revilla Jr. also deplored the kidnapping of ABS-CBN reporter Ces Oreña-Drilon and her two unidentified cameramen. Years ago, ABS-CBN reporter Maan Macapagal and cameraman Val Cuenca were also abducted by the ASG.
“I will try my best to free Ces and the three others,” said Legarda, who helped in the release of Net25 television reporter Arlyn dela Cruz in 2003.
She also sought the release of then Army Maj. Noel Buan from the New People’s Army. “Saving of Ces Drilon and company is paramount,” Pimentel said.
Revilla condemned the abduction of Drilon, his second cousin. “Their abductors should bear in mind that the group of Drilon went to Sulu as members of the Fourth Estate, to provide an impartial and truthful report on the developments and events in the said province. The press is neutral and sacrosanct and should not fall prey to any group or of any interest,” he said.
Biazon has warned that the ASG might be again at its fund raising activities especially kidnap-for-ransom. He noted that most vulnerable victims are high profile personalities with the potential of their company coming up with the payment of ransom demands.
Sighted in Maimbung
The PNP said an ABS-CBN television reporter and three others believed to have been abducted by the Abu Sayyaf were seen in Maimbung town, Sulu province.
The MILF said the victims were reportedly held by the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad.
In Camp Crame, the Maimbung police chief reported sightings in the Kulasi area of Parad and of people with a video camera inside a vehicle.
ABS-CBN in a press statement confirmed that journalists Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion, and Angelo Valderama were missing in Sulu.
The MILF, in confirming Drilon’s abduction, reported that the television reporter’s group was kidnapped by an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, a certain Gafur Gumbahali.