Freed hostage tells Parad: Be good

Freed hostage Mary Jean Lacaba waves as she prepares to board a Manila-bound private plane at Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City yesterday.

Freed hostage Mary Jean Lacaba waves as she prepares to board a Manila-bound private plane at Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines – A group hug with her chief abductor and two fellow hostages marked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker Mary Jean Lacaba’s last moments with the Abu Sayyaf who held her captive for 77 days.

Sulu vice governor and Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)-Sulu chapter chair Nur-Ana “Lady Ann” Sahidulla recounted how Lacaba was released to her by the Abu Sayyaf at around 8:30 p.m. Thursday “somewhere” in Indanan, Sulu.

“They hugged each other and Mary Jean told him (Abu Sayyaf chieftain Albader Parad), ‘be good.’ The others (Abu Sayyaf members) were calling to Mary Jean – ‘hello, ate’ – and they were waving their hands. They said, ‘we’ll miss you,’” Sahidulla noted in a press briefing at the PNRC main office in Manila.

Sahidulla added that the bandit group and the hostages “appeared like they were already friends and I was just watching them.”

Lacaba was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf led by Parad last Jan. 15 along with fellow ICRC workers – Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss Andreas Notter – in Indanan while on a mission to ensure that the Sulu provincial jail had access to safe drinking water.

Sahidulla said the two remaining hostages appeared “okay” but have grown beards.

The vice governor said Lacaba grew “more beautiful” than the last time she saw her “because she was slimmer.”

“She looked sad and at the same time happy. She bid them (Vagni and Notter) goodbye and told them ‘don’t worry, we’ll see you soon’ and after that they left and we left also,” she maintained.

Sahidulla claimed that Lacaba managed to bring home her personal belongings and a plate that she used as souvenir when they left the Abu’s lair. There were some 50 Abu members in the area.

Sahidulla recalled that on Thursday morning, a lady-emissary of the kidnappers went to her house in Sulu to inform her that the Abu Sayyaf wanted to talk to her.

She wanted to postpone the meeting but the woman advised against it because the rebel group was “always on the move.” Because of this, she immediately informed PNRC chairman and Sen. Richard Gordon and the military about the request and went with the woman.

Sahidulla said that she never knew that Lacaba would be released until she met the abductors face to face.

“There was no formal negotiation about this and no ransom payment was made. They just wanted to show that they are sincere in their intention to reform and that they are willing to fulfill their promise,” she added.

Sahidulla said the bandits were still demanding a military pull-out in some towns in Sulu but not as wide as before.

Gordon and Sahidulla have underscored the need to create a committee that will formally negotiate with the abductors about the release of the two remaining hostages.

Lacaba arrived in Manila yesterday afternoon but she was kept from the media.

According to Gordon, Lacaba was in the care of ICRC doctors who came all the way from Geneva.

“ICRC is very conservative in treating our people who have undergone a harrowing experience. Mary Jean will undergo critical stress debriefing to enable her to slowly return to her normal life,” he added.

During the debriefing sessions, Gordon said experts would address certain conditions that Mary Jean might have suffered because of the abduction. He claimed that the victim is vulnerable to nightmares, hyper-vigilance, distrust, anxiety, irritation, anger, feelings of guilt, self-blame and headaches, among others.

“We are very happy that Mary Jean is now safe. She is now with her husband Manny, son Christian and sisters. Other relatives are also coming. We are begging Parad to release Andreas and Eugenio immediately unharmed,” he added.

Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on Freed hostage tells Parad: Be good  
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