Be wary of ransom rumors in ICRC kidnap

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Local authorities have cautioned the public against believing reports of the ransom demand purportedly from the Abu Sayyaf group that has been holding captive three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Local officials, too, have been receiving various reports. Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin said on Thursday, the P50 million that the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu was reportedly could only be for “mobilization” expenses.

But he said that if it were true, it might just spell freedom for one of the hostages, Filipina Jean Lacaba.

Amin said the Abu Sayyaf really wanted P500 million, according to reports reaching him, for the release of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio and Lacaba, but that it might free Lacaba as a show of “goodwill.”

“The amount (P50 million) is probably for their mobilization only—like expenses for cigarettes and coffee—and maybe a sign of goodwill and they will release Mary Jean Lacaba,” he said.

“But they want half-a-billion pesos,” he added.

Amin said his sources on the ground had told him the P50 million was only for “pagsigasiga sadja san (for cigarettes only) way pa in puti (the whites (Notter and Vagni) are not yet included).

He said he previously heard of the P50-million demand but dismissed it because “I was not the one who received the information.”

“Might just be a rumor or hearsay,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf, led by Albader Parad, earlier told Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula that they were not asking for ransom.

They just wanted development projects.

Another Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the reported P50 million demand was being regarded as a rumor only because the Task Force ICRC, headed by Governor Abdusakur Tan, had not received any formal note from the bandit group.

“May mga ganyang balitang kumakalat na ransom, may P5 Million, may P50 Million, may billions pa nga, pero para sa amin, puro haka-haka lahat nang iyan dahil wala namang natatanggap na ransom letter ang Task Force ICRC tungkol sa demand (News are going around about the ransom demand. There is P5 million, P50 million, even billions, but for us, these are just speculations because the Task Force ICRC has not received a ransom letter),” the source, who requested anonymity for not being assigned to speak to media, said.

The informant, also an active member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Indanan town, said it appeared that some people were trying to publicize the reports on the ransom demand.

“Nasagap lang nila iyan sa tabi-tabi at walang opisyal na sulat o may lumapit sa kanilang contact para ipalabas na ito ang hinihingi nilang demand, dahil kung meron, matagal nang na-report yan sa media (They just got it from unreliable sources and there was no official communication from the kidnappers because if there were, it would have been reported by the media a long time ago),” the source added.

He said the Abu Sayyaf had so far demanded the pullout of soldiers and militiamen.

“Kapag napa-atras na ang lahat, saka magkakaroon ng matinong usapan at doon nila muli ilalabas ang kanilang demand (When the troops have pulled out, there will be serious talks and they will talk about their demands),” the source said.

He said last week, a firefight ensued because the kidnappers tried to break the cordon set by soldiers and militiamen.

On Tuesday night, another firefight also took place.

The source added there were reports of bandits breaking through the cordon.

Asked how it happened, he replied: “Madali namang kausapin yung ibang areas para makalabas sila, minsan pera-pera lang yan eh (It’s easy to talk to some people in certain areas. It all boils down to the money).”

Amin said the persistent reports about ransom made him worry more about the fate of the three ICRC members. He said he has been making sure to get updates on the case.

“These people have helped so much in our province. We would be affected if anything happens to them. If that happens, no more projects and no more investors would come here,” he said by phone.

Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 9:28 pm  Comments Off on Be wary of ransom rumors in ICRC kidnap  
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