Ces Drilon’s Abu Sayyaf Kidnappers Give Ultimatum

In an interview with Mike Enriquez of radio station DZBB, the mayor of Indanan town in Sulu, Alvarez Isnaji, says that the captors of T.V. anchor Ces Drilon, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and MSU professor Octavio Dinampo have threatened to end negotiations and cut off all communication if their demands for ransom are not met by 12:00 noon tomorrow. Implicit is the threat to harm Ces Drilon and the other hostages.

Isnaji is the emissary of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers in dealing with the government and other parties seeking the release of Drilon and company.

It’s become a game of one-upmanship and intimidation, as the military made its presence felt by firing off some mortar rounds and moving its troops, composed of Marines, closer
to where Ms. Drilon is believed to be held. The kidnappers now have to up their ante or risk being called on their threats by the government forces. Who’s going to blink first ?

As to whether Alvarez Isnaji can be trusted to tell the truth remains an open question. He seems to have a flair for drama and self-promotion, as shown by his statements when he complained that Drilon’s family has stepped into the negotiations:

Indanan, Sulu Mayor Alvarez Isnaji said Monday his role had been reduced to a “runner” or “courier” of the supposed ransom to be paid for Drilon.

“Sabi nila, to my face, hindi, wala na, meron kaming agreement sa pamilya, sorry (They told me to my face, don’t make any demands because we have an agreement with Drilon’s family. Sorry),” Isnaji said in an interview on dzXL radio.

Isnaji said he had wanted to “beg” the abductors to release Drilon soonest as a “humanitarian” gesture, and not to “touch” her. He said he was ready to “kneel” before them.

“Parang lumuluhod ako sa Abu Sayyaf na ito, sa commander na ito, pero hindi pa rin nakikinig sa akin. Ang gusto pala nila pera pala (I was ready to kneel before their commander but they refused to listen to me. The bottom line for them was money),” Isnaji said.

Isnaji, initially selected by the Abu Sayyaf as “negotiator,” is running in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections this August.

“Meron silang direct contact sa pamilya. Yan ang weakness ko, everytime makipag-usap ako sa kanila, sabi nila sorry meron kaming pinagusapan, approved na nila, dadalhin na lang ang pera sa iyo, maghintay ka na lang. Mukhang pushman lang ako rito (They would claim they have direct contact with Drilon’s family. That weakened my position. Every time I tried to contact them they would tell me, sorry, we reached a deal with her family. They approved it and will send the money to you so you can bring it to us. So in effect, I’m just a courier here),” he said.

On the other hand, Isnaji said he had talked to Drilon’s siblings, who he said were crying because they had no money for ransom.

He also cited “unverified” reports that Drilon’s mother was “very sick” because of worry. He said some of the reports even indicated she suffered a stroke.

Isnaji said Drilon herself was crying the last time he talked to her.

“Iyak nang iyak nga siya, sabi niya bakit siya pinabayaan doon sa bundok. Ang nanay at pamilya walang wala, meron siyang anak 4 walang mapakain doon (She was crying and saying why she was abandoned in the mountains. She said her family had no money but she has four children to feed),” he said.

But he said money turned out to be the bottomline for the abductors.

Methinks Mr. Isnaji is much too eager to talk ransom. No surprise, as he’s running for the post of governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The kidnappers also appear to be trying to presurre ABS-CBN into coughing up the ransom money. What’s their game plan ?

Although the Abu Sayyaf has been known to pull back and extend their deadlines, the clock is ticking for Ces Drilon and her fellow captives.

Read also: Ransom for Ces Drilon and company: To Pay or Not to Pay

Update: an Inquirer report says Moro kidnappers tied up a tearful Ces Drilon and her cameraman and set a noon deadline Tuesday, 17 June 2008, for the delivery of P15 million in cash ransom.

Negotiators for Drilon hoping for an extension of the deadline.

True to form, the Abu Sayyaf extend the deadline “indefinitely“. Huh ? An indefinite deadline is no deadline at all.

According to the Inquirer:

In a press conference in Sulu aired live on radio Tuesday, minutes before the noon deadline for payment of a P15 million ransom expired, Jun Isnaji, son of Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, said the abductors assured his father that they would not harm ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, and Octavio Dinampo, Mindanao State University professor.

The young Isnaji said ransom was not discussed during the negotiations but that the captors asked for livelihood projects in exchange for the release of Drilon and company.

The kidnappers had threatened to behead their hostages, admitted Isnaji but added that they would no longer carry this out.

In this deadly game of “chicken”, the Abu Sayyaf swerved first.

Ces Drilon and companions were freed by their kidnappers last night, nine days after they were abducted in Sulu province.Was ransom paid ? According to the Inquirer (the printed, not online, version), duffel bags containing possible ransom money were flown in by a lawyer connected to Alvarez Isnaji. Previously, duffel bags were used in the payment of ransom for kidnap victims of the Abu Sayyaf.

In media interviews, a remorseful Ces Drilon apologized for breaking certain established protocols and defying guidelines in pursuing a story, in an attempt to absolve ABS-CBN from any responsibility for the incident. The lady knows where her bread is buttered.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement that this should be a time of sober reflection for media practitioners, including media organizations, about the risks journalists take and the responsibility of media owners and outfits to ensure the safety and welfare of those they send into the field.

NUJP chairman Jose Torres Jr. and secretary general Rowena Paraan, in a statement, thanked all those who helped secure the safe return of journalists Ces Drilon, Jimmy Encarnacion, Angelo Valderama, and university professor Octavio Dinampo, particularly Indanan Mayor Alvarez Isnaji, Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidullah and Senator Loren Legarda, the military and police.

The NUJP officials also thanked their media colleagues who offered prayers of hope and the media outlets that kept close tabs on the unfolding crisis.

“Even as we welcome back our colleagues, we also urge everyone in our profession to reflect on this incident as a sober reminder of the risks we constantly face as we go about our work,” Torres and Paraan said.

If anything, they said, the kidnapping “highlights a continuing problem within the industry that adds to the external dangers and threats to press freedom, and that is the responsibility of media owners and outfits to ensure the safety and welfare of those they send into the field, even into the line of fire, to deliver the news to our audience.”

“We urge everyone in the industry, from correspondents to media owners, to soberly reflect on this problem and come together to address this issue. We owe it to ourselves, to our families and to our audience,” the NUJP officers said.

If anything positive would come out of the kidnapping, it’s that journalists and media owners have been given a wake-up call on how they’ve been conducting their business, what’s wrong with how they do things and how the public perceives them. A little self-examination and humility will do the industry good.

Indanan town mayor Alvarez Isnaji and son Haider, the ostensible negotiators who worked for the release of Ces Drilon and her fellow kidnap victims, face kidnapping charges for conniving with the Abu Sayyaf group in the abduction, police officials said.

A complaint for four counts of kidnapping against Isnaji and son will be filed at the Department of Justice for having been in cahoots with the kidnappers. Why am I not surpised ?

PNP Chief Avelino Razon and Chief Superintendent Raul Castañeda, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said police have witnesses that implicated the Isnajis in the kidnapping.

“Based on the revelations given by witnesses, we have seen that Mayor
Alvarez Isnaji is a principal suspect in this kidnapping case of Ces
Drilon,” Razon said.

The witnesses include government officials and policemen who “know certain facts relating to the kidnapping case” and were “present during the incident,” Razon said. He declined to elaborate.

After Drilon’s group was released and their statements were taken,
Razon said, “The fact that Mayor Alvarez Isnaji was involved in the kidnapping unraveled.”

Razon said there were “inconsistencies” in Isnaji’s statement but refused to elaborate, pending the filing of formal charges.

Razon also noted that the town mayor was appointed by the kidnappers as their negotiator with government, even as the local officials tapped Sulu Vice Governor Lady Ann Sahidula to hold negotiations.

“Mayor Isnaji was not among the government negotiators. He was negotiating for the kidnap for ransom group,” he said.

The mayor’s son, Haider, was a “conduit,” Razon said, adding that the young Isnaji “was also talking [with the kidnappers] and doing the things that his father was doing.”

I had a feeling he has jerking everyone around. The sleazeball was part of it all along.

Jose Ma. Montelibano grieves for Sulu even as he holds out the fading hope that Filipino Christians and Muslims may someday see themselves as brothers.

There are so many other individuals and groups that have never deserted their dream for the renaissance of a jewel of Philippine history. The sultanates of Sulu are a historical pride of Filipinos, evidence of a refined civilization that preceded the accidental encounter of Magellan and our native shores. There is cause for resentment among people of the Tausug tribe. They have lost so much over 400 years, not just lives sacrificed for honor but also wealth, dignity and an illustrious history.

My sympathy for a people who have lost so much is the same for the rest of Filipinos who have lost just as much.

We cannot keep crying over spilt milk, but we have no greater power than those who rule today and have not felt the compunction to correct the wrongs of yesterday. What is left in us is a dream that cannot die, that must not die. While we are not sure how justice can be attained in peace, we cannot foster conflict, death and destruction, either. What is clear, however, is that Muslims and Christians are brothers, that Muslims and Christians are victims, and that Muslims and Christians must seek friendship and cooperation. That is the only way for a future full of hope.

The Inquirer’s Arlyn Dela Cruz’ interesting insights on Ces Drilon’s ordeal.

For those interested in looking deeper into the history and culture of Sulu, the Yuchengco Museum invites the public to the unveiling of the exhibit “Beyond the Currents: The Culture and Power of Sulu” on June 21, Saturday, at 10:30 a.m.

Beyond the Currents, which runs until September 24, looks into the fascinating story of the forces that consolidated Sulu’s power as central to the trade movements between Europe and China. The museum is located at RCBC Plaza, Corner Ayala & Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenues, Makati. To RSVP, call 889-1234 or e-mail [email protected]

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