ABS-CBN won’t buy Ces Drilon’s freedom

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — VETERAN television journalist Ces Orena-Drilon and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama have been kidnapped for ransom, ABS-CBN management confirmed yesterday but maintained it will not pay any ransom for the three victims.

Reports have put the ransom demand between P10 million and P22 million.

In a statement, the TV network said “ABS-CBN News is doing everything it can to help the families of its kidnapped journalists through this harrowing ordeal.”

The giant media network did not identify the group holding the three although police had said that a group of al Qaeda-backed Abu Sayyaf extremists abducted them and took them to Maimbung, Sulu last Sunday. Mindanao State University-Sulu Professor Octavio Dinampo was with Drilon and the cameramen when they disappeared.

The four were snatched by a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists led by Albader Parad and Gapul Jumdail, police said.

“However, ABS-CBN will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap-for-ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk,” it added.

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Nicanor A. Bartolome however said they are not taking ABS-CBN’s confirmation of the Drilon kidnapping “hook, line and sinker.”

“As far as we are concerned, it is still a missing persons case. We have not yet received reports from our investigators in the field of any ransom demand,” said Bartolome.

He said that field operatives have been working double time to locate Drilon and her companions even as he said that a “negotiator” has been tapped to gather more information on the whereabouts of the three.

“Let me be clear that the PNP has not received reports that they are indeed abducted. There is no ransom demand received by our investigators. This is still a case of missing person,” the PNP spokesman said.

ABS-CBN asked the whole country to pray for the safe recovery of the three and condemn the incident.

“We ask the nation for your prayers and request our colleagues in media to join ABS-CBN News in condemning this unconscionable attack against journalists. We thank everyone for the outpouring of support we have received in this most difficult time,” it added.

Officials yesterday said negotiations are underway for the safe release of the victims. Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office director Chief Supt. Joel R. Goltiao said there was a “great possibility” that the journalist would be freed, but would not say who was involved in the negotiations.

“Negotiations are being conducted. There is a great possibility that we will obtain the release of Ces Drilon but we cannot give an exact date,” Goltiao said on radio.

Goltiao would not comment on reports that the Abu Sayyaf had demanded about US$500,000 or roughly P22 million for the hostages’ safe release. Other reports said the initial demand was about US$250,000 until it was raised to $500,000. “These are all being verified,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf is known for kidnapping Christians and foreigners, holding them for ransom and beheading them if they do not get the money. Female captives are also believed to have been sexually abused by the terrorists in their jungle hideouts. Drilon is the third local journalist to be kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf since 2000, records showed.