PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — IN a tacit admission that ransom was paid for the release of television broadcaster Ces Oreña-Drilon and three others, Philippine National Police officials yesterday said Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji masterminded the kidnapping and pressured her family to raise a P5 million ransom, P3 million of which he reportedly pocketed.
PNP chief Director General Avelino I. Razon, Jr. confirmed reports that a P5 million ransom was delivered by Drilon’s brother Frank Oreña. He added that they have proof the mayor only gave P2 million to the kidnappers and pocketed the rest of the money.
In a press briefing in Camp Crame, Razon showed two pictures taken at the house of Mayor Isnaji on June 12 showing him counting the ransom money in the presence of Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidullah, his son Haider alias “Jun,” and an undercover police officer, Senior Supt. Winnie Quidato of the PNP Intelligence Group.
“We have lots of evidence against Mayor Isnaji in terms of witnesses’ accounts, intelligence reports, statements and even pictures and records of the events,” Razon said.
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Supt. Raul L. Castañeda said they found several inconsistencies in Isnaji’s statements when he was subjected to a debriefing last Wednesday.
“First, Mayor Isnaji said P100,000 was paid for the ‘board and lodging’ of the hostages and he did not say there was the P5 million raised by the Oreña family,” Castaneda said.
The CIDG chief said that so far, they have three police officers including Quidato and several civilians who will testify against Isnaji and 16 others charged with kidnapping-for- ransom Thursday evening.
“We made that clear to Department of Justice prosecutors Thursday night,” he said.
PNP Director for Operations Director Silverio D. Alarcio, Jr. said their investigation also showed that Mayor Isnaji and his son Haider “actively negotiated for the kidnappers’ benefit in the ransom negotiations and the subsequent payment.”
“Both acted as the emissaries of the Abu Sayyaf rather than for the government in the release of the hostages,” Alarcio said.
He added that they also found out that Mayor Isnaji and his son “had been in constant communication with the kidnappers and even directed the negotiation for the delivery and payment of the ransom amounting to P5 million.”
“It was established he only delivered P2 million to the abductors and had kept the remaining balance. It was gathered that Mayor Isnaji and his son had persistently applied pressure on the family of the victims for the delivery of the remaining ransom money for the release of the other hostages still held in captivity,” Alarcio said.
According to Razon, they only got wind of Isnaji’s involvement in the kidnapping when Quidato secretly reported to them what he had witnessed at the house of the mayor who is running for the gubernatorial post of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
He said that Quidato was sent to Jolo in a covert operation after the PNP-IG headed by Chief Supt. Rolando T. Anonuevo received information that the Abu Sayyaf Group that seized Drilon, her cameramen Angelo Valderama and Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo is headed by a certain “Larin-Larin.”
“It turned out that Larin-Larin is the alias of Mayor Isnaji,” Razon said.
He said Quidato identified himself as a civilian representative from the Department of Interior and Local Government tasked to monitor the progress of the negotiations for the safe release of the captives.
According to Quidato, only P2 million went to the kidnappers and Mayor Isnaji retained the rest. He said that the kidnappers made it appear they would release Drilon if they got the money but instead released only cameraman Valderama that day.
Razon said they are continuing their investigation into the alleged delivery of more ransom contained in two duffel bags for the hostages, said to have been delivered on a Seair flight from Zamboanga City. Reports said the bags contained at least P15 million.
“There was initially P5 million paid by the Oreña family on June 12, the money delivered at the house of the mayor,” he said.
Razon said they were unaware that the Oreña family raised the P5 million ransom until Quidato reported it to them. He said that Vice Governor Lady Arin Sahidullah was not involved in the case and will testify that Mayor Isnaji got the money.
“Mayor Isnaji never thought that Quidato is an undercover officer,” he said.