Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ces Drilon and Other Hostages Freed

Kidnapped TV reporter Ces Drilon, cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and professor Octavio Dinampo have been freed.

After nine days of being taken into hostage by the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Sulu, Mindanao, journalist Ces Drilon, the ABS-CBN crew and Mindanao State University professor have been released. Although cameraman Angelo Valderama was freed earlier on June 12 for a reported P2 million ransom (although others denied any money was paid), the other victims were let go Tuesday night (June 17) and flown to Zamboanga City for medical attention, appropriate food and nutrition, and debriefing before being allowed to fly to Manila to reunite with their families.

With a no-ransom policy set by ABS-CBN and the government, future results seemed grim for the hostages as the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers tied Encarnacion's hands and prepared him for beheading, and Drilon to follow. In fact, at one point, Senator Loren Legarda, who was supposedly instrumental in the negotiations, said Drilon told her over the phone crying: "Loren, tell me if you guys can't do it so I can accept my fate that they will behead us."

But when Senator Legarda made it clear to the rebels that no P15 or P20 million was coming and with the Marines closing in, the kidnappers finally gave in and dropped the deadline and settled for a "livelihood package" instead. Soon after, they released the three hostages to Jun (Haider) Isnaji, after which they were brought to Mayor Alvarez Isnaji's home.

The victims were originally kidnapped in Maimbung, Sulu, on June 8 while they were on the way to interview a top commander of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. So I guess the lesson to learn here for journalists and basically everyone else, is to avoid all known terrorist territories and, especially, do not meet with the terrorists themselves unless it is a necessity to do so.

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