PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Thus President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headed by AFP chief Gen. Alexander Yano to launch a massive manhunt against the kidnappers of ABS-CBN broadcast journalist Ces Drilon and her crew and an academician of the Mindanao State University (MSU).
Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and MSU Prof. Octavio Dinampo were released Tuesday shortly before midnight in Sulu and flown immediately yesterday to Zamboanga City and later to Manila at 2 p.m. for debriefing and medical check ups.
Drilon bared she felt betrayed which led to their kidnapping. She, however, declined to give details.
ABS-CBN driver Angelo Valderama was earlier freed four days after the kidnapping last June 8.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that the government will not stop in seeking out Drilon’s kidnappers even as he admitted that the Abu Sayyaf who are believed behind the kidnapping of the victims are a force to reckon with especially until they are crushed.
Earlier, Press Secretary Jess Dureza hailed the release of Drilon and two other remaining captives as he stressed that the kidnappers “will have to face the full force of the law.’
“Our rejoicing must not overshadow the unrelenting efforts to bring the perpetrators before the bar of justice,” Dureza said.
Loren’s role welcomed
He welcomed the participation of Sen. Loren Legarda in helping out for the release of the captives even as he insisted that the Palace kept a hands off policy in the negotiation and simply tossed the task to the Crisis Management Committee composed mostly of local executives in Sulu.
AFP launches punitive actions
In a press conference, AFP public information chief Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said military troops in Sulu were given orders to launch an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf group that abducted Drilon and her companions.
The military offensive was launched a few hours after Drilon and company were released before midnight Tuesday.
“Kaninang madaling-araw, upon learning that Ms. Ces Drilon and her company were freed, the Chief of Staff issued a directive, he said that punitive actions will be launched against the kidnappers and other terrorists in Sulu,” Torres said.
Torres noted that some 4,000 military troops are now in place in the province, and are just awaiting specific orders to start the offensives.
While Torres could not give a definite number of Abu Sayyaf elements operating in Sulu, he said latest military estimates indicated that the group’s overall strength was placed at 380 men.
PPCRV welcomes Drilon release
The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, a Church-based election watchdog, expressed gratitude after the release of Prof. Octavio Dinampo, broadcast-journalis t Ces Drilon and cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion late Tuesday night.
Boy Avendaño, PPCRV deputy coordinator who is based in Tawi-Tawi, said the release of the captives is a gesture of kindness but he added that any act of kidnapping for whatever reason should not be tolerated.
“Tried and tested formula”
Authorities have strongly denied it but speculations are rife that the same “old but tried and tested formula” of giving ransom was instrumental in the release of Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo.
Philippine National Police chief, Director General Avelino I. Razon Jr. and Senator Legarda both denied that money changed hands to secure the safe release of the three after nine days in Abu Sayyaf captivity citing a strict “no ransom policy” by the government. Legarda said the release was “unconditional and ransom was not paid to the kidnappers.”
However, reports said P100,000 was paid to the kidnappers for “board and lodging,” the same amount paid last week for the release of ABS-CBN assistant cameraman Angelo Valderama, according to negotiator, Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji.