(Photo file of Ces Drillon from the internet)
UPDATE: Ces Drillon, Jimmy Encarnacion, and Prof. Octavio Dinampo were released by their captors inTalipao Sulo around 11:00 p.m. Tuesday after nine days of captivity. They immediately underwent debriefing session in Zamboanga City. Drillon,who said “words are not enough to thank those who prayed for the professor, Jimmy, Angel, and myself,” ate rice porridge her first decent meal according to PNP chief Avelino Razon. Similarly medical examination was conducted on the three hostages and were all declared in good health.
It was no less than Indanan Mayor Isnaii Alvares (hostage negotiator) revealed that the lives of Ces Drillon (TV anchorwoman) and two other companions are in grave danger after the Abu Sayyaf captors gave an ultimatum ( June 17, 2008 ) for the payment of P15-million ransom demanded by the bandit group.
Alvarez expressed his concern about the inability of the hostage families in meeting the demands of their captors. He said that the lives of the hostages are at stake here. If no ransom is delivered (on the given deadline), the Abu Sayyap threatened to cut off communication with him.
If so, does this mean that the lives of Ces Drillon and her hostage companions in grave danger? In this regard, you do not expect the families of the hostages to be sitting down doing nothing. There are reports that the families of Drillon and Encarnacion are directly negotiating with the kidnappers however this is vehemently denied by the families concerned.
In a joint statement of the families, they denied reports that they were directly negotiating with the kidnappers. “Only Mayor Alvarez is directly communicating with the kidnappers. We are counting on him for the release of Ces and Jimmy and continue to pray for his efforts.” .
But Alvarez countered by saying that it was Drilon herself who agreed to the P15-million ransom demanded by the kidnappers.
“I told her, why did she agree? She said she was just forced because guns were pointed at her,” Alvarez said.
“We don’t know what they (the abductors) are up to and what they are asking from the family of Drilon, but they gave me an ultimatum until (today) to resolve this problem,” Alvarez added.
Alvarez also scored ABS-CBN for reportedly letting the hostages’ families negotiate their release but the network quickly denied the accusation.
“We are deeply saddened and troubled by accusations that ABS-CBN has abandoned Ces and Jimmy. ABS-CBN is doing everything it can to help them and their families through this harrowing ordeal,” it said. Further the network disclosed it ruled out payment of ransom for the release of the hostages.
Government authorities are also firm on the state’s no-ransom policy but promised to exhaust all peaceful means in securing the release of the hostages.
Likewise the Armed Forces of the Philippines is against any ransom payment for the release of the hostages. According to Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres AFP public affairs chief that paying ransom would only embolden bandits and terrorists from kidnapping other personalities and conduct more terror activities
Torres also aired his concern about the huge amount of ransom money that could be spent to finance terrorists activities. He however assured the public that the military is still on top of the situation despite the crisis.
As always the case, Malacañang is unfazed by the kidnappers’ ultimatum but not taking it lightly considering the Abu Sayyaf’s “long record of atrocities.”
“Our no-ransom policy has not changed,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said. “And we are gratified that ABS-CBN has not also changed its policy.” Further he reiterated the president’s (Arroyo) concern with the safety hostages and order for authorities to get hostages unharmed.
“I’m not so sure about whether I know exactly what’s in the minds of these terrorists but the ultimatum is something we should not take lightly,” he said.
“All options are open but whatever that may be, the main consideration is the safety of the hostages,” Dureza said.
Dureza also explained that an on going military operation, is intended to apprehend high ranking terrorist in the area; it is not meant to free the hostages. The operation is about 25 kilometers away from where the bandits are believed to be holding the hostages.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales however has a more realistic assessment on the situation of the hostages. He believes that the ultimatum given by the bandits has placed the captives’ lives in greater danger.
“It is just that the negotiation does not seem to be doing okay. The problem is that these are the young hotheads and I think they are not part of Commander Putol (Abu Sayyaf commander Radullan Sahiron),” Gonzalez said.
When it comes to the safety of Drillon and her hostage companions, according to him the Abu Sayyaf might have second thoughts about harming Drilon and her companions because of the victims’ high-profile status. But then being on the hands of ruthless criminals, anything can happen.
Kidnappers of Ces Drillon and her camera man gave an indefinite extension in the negotiation for their release. Mayor Alvarez said that the hostage takers promised not to harm Drillon and her companion.