Tearful reunion at Zambo beach resort

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — VETERAN ABS-CBN reporter Ces Oreña-Drilon and her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and their families had a tearful reunion yesterday, 10 days after they were seized by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and threatened with beheading if their ransom demand was rejected.

“Words are not enough,” an emotional Drilon said as she thanked those who worked for their release. In a press conference in Zamboanga City where she was joined by Philippine National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon, Jr. and Sen. Legarda, Drilon expressed deep gratitude to her media colleagues, her family, the ABS-CBN management and the other people who either prayed or worked for their safety and freedom.

On board a private plane from Manila, the 46-year-old Drilon’s sisters Gretch and Franz and Encarnacion’s brother, Leo, accompanied by Senator Loren Legarda and ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs head Maria Ressa Leo went to the La Vista del March Beach Resort in Zamboanga City where they met the newly-released ABS-CBN employees.

ABS-CBN assistant cameraman Angelo Valderama, a fellow captive of the two who was released earlier on June 12, Independence Day, also met the two.

However, another freed hostage, Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo, was taken to the Police Regional Office 9 headquarters in the city for questioning amid suspicion he “fed” the ABS-CBN crew to the kidnappers. Police, however, said that DInampo is not a suspect but will only be questioned as part of routine investigation.

Drilon was diagnosed as suffering from low blood pressure due to lack of sleep. She appeared on television wearing a white t-shirt and white jogging pants, looking “very pale” and her face bore mosquito bites. “Giant and lamok doon,” she said.

In a statement released shortly after the three were released, dated June 17, 11 pm, the families of the three ABS-CBN TV crew thanked Legarda, local officials of Sulu, and police and military officials for helping free the ABS-CBN team.

“Above all, the release of Ces, Jimmy, and Angelo could not have been possible without the help of Senator Loren Legarda and the cooperation of the people of Sulu and their local government namely Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidullah. We thank them and share their hope for enduring peace in Mindanao,” the statement said.

The National Press Club of the Philippines and Alyansa ng Filipinong Mamamahayag hailed the happy resolution of the kidnapping case and at the same time advised journalists against disregarding their own safety while doing their job.

“In going about our work, we must first think in the first place: (a) Is this piece of information worth dying for? (b) If it is, is there other less harmful way, or are you decided to die if you must and hope to land a hero in the new page of our fight for liberty.

“The crisis maybe over but different media entities must always be reminded that alongside the liberty of the press that we must enjoy is the equally-noble responsibility of not putting journalists’ — including ours — other people’s lives on the line, the NPC and AFIMA said in a joint statement.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, a Church-based election watchdog, yesterday expressed elation over the release of the Abu Sayyaf victims.

Boy Avendano, PPCRV deputy coordinator who is based in Tawi-tawi, said the release of the captives is a gesture of kindness but added any act of kidnapping for whatever reason should not be tolerated. “We are just happy that the captives are freed. As to the ransom, it is not an issue as of the moment,” he said.