Posted by: Mer Pints | June 19, 2008

When the negotiator turns out to be the suspect-the truth behind the abduction of Ces Drilon and company.

After their captors released them in Talipao Sulu on Tuesday, and having eaten her first decent meal of rice porridge (lugaw), Ces Drillon started to talk about her nine-day ordeal from the hands of the bandits. She recalled how bad they were treated, sharing little food to eat, her camera man punched and hit by a rifle, sleeping under and improvised tent (yet they have to pay for their board and lodging from the bandits), and was slapped at the face by their kidnappers.

She cried betrayal, the reason for their kidnapping. She should have thought first of their safety, but then the journalist in her blood defied everything just to get a news story. They had been so trusting to their contacts, people whom they think may not even lift a finger to harm them. But they were kidnapped just the same and had to donate about 20 million pesos for livelihood project (a ransom?).

Mayor Alvarez Isnaji of Indanan, Sulu and his son Haider along with 14 others have been charged by the police for the abduction of Ces Drilon and her team of  ABS-CBN news crew. Earlier the father and son after debriefing have been arrested for allegedly taking part in the kidnapping of Ces Drilon, cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion, and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo.

No less than Interior government Ronaldo Puno said in an interview with radio dzMM that Isnaji and son could be liable for kidnapping.

The MNLF and Dinampo objected it. They said, Isnaji should be congratulated by Malacanang for the release of the hostages. The PNP however contented that Isnaji is not a government negotiator but a negotiator for the kidnappers.

Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and son, however, denied involvement. The mayor even insinuated that their accusation is nothing but politics. Mayor Isnaji has plans to run for governor of ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao).

But Puno said there are various ways one could become a principal in a kidnapping incident; one is to become a co-conspirator of the kidnappers, and by “indispensable operation.”

“This means that had the person not done something, would the kidnapping still have taken place?” he said. He recalled that after the kidnapping on June 8, he called Isnaji to ensure that the hostages are not harmed and to prevent the situation from worsening being the Indanan mayor.

“But after my call, it got worse. The hostages were slapped and abused and hit with rifles. Isnaji was in constant communication with the kidnappers,” he said.

Puno also questioned Isnaji’s failure to coordinate with the authorities or the families of the victim during the negotiations. 

Corroborating the DILG’s secretary suspicion on the involvement of Isnaji and son, Chief Superintendent Raul Castañeda, Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director also said that there were many inconsistencies in the statements of the Isnajis during debriefing.

 “Based on the evaluation of our investigators… There are so many inconsistencies on the debriefing made on the mayor. We have officers who debunked his statements. [The officers] were at the crime area when [the kidnapping] was going on,” he told in an interview with ANC’s “News at 8.” 

On his part, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez would like to find out if politicians have been involved in the kidnapping to raise campaign funds for the upcoming ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) election.

For this reason, the Department of Justice has formed a special investigating task force to help the police in the kidnapping probe.

Incidentally Mayor Isnaji has plans to run as governor of ARMM come  the August 11 elections. He has also link with the Moro National Liberation Front being an official member.

Earlier peace advocacy groups had been worried about the continued debriefing of Prof. Octavio Dinampo, who along with Drilon and her group have been kidnapped. Later professor Dinampo corrected the impression that he was detained by the military. He is founding chairman of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC). 

Another person who was also invited by the police for questioning was Juamil Biyaw, a former member of the Moro National Liberation front (MNLF) now serving as a military informant in Mindanao. His testimony will be compared to the debriefing statements made by Drilon, her crew and professor Octavio Dinampo.

Biyaw presented himself earlier to the military and told that he was the one who fetched the ABS CBN news crew from their hotel. He took the news team along with Dinampo to Barangay Adjid in Indanan Sulu where TV anchor news Ces Drilon was supposed to meet and interview a bandit leader for a news story.

He recounted that 10 gunmen in their early 20’s met Drilon’s team and professor Dinampo. He also said that the group was not alarmed by the presence of the gunmen, and that professor Dinampo seemed to know them. They then went walking into a forested area and stopped to eat. After eating Biyaw excused himself and asked the group if he could just wait for them to their vehicle as he was not feeling well..

Now that Biyaw  had been investigated by the police could he yield more significant information that could help authorities resolve the Drilon’s, et. al. kidnapping case? Will his testimonies help the police to link mayor Alvarez Isnaji as a “principal (from the words of Secretary Puno) in the kidnapping incident?”

Meanwhile the police is also looking into the possibility that there are negotiators who padded up the amount of ransom money form 10 million pesos to 20 million as disclosed by senator Rodolfo Biazon, It is possible that some government officials had benefit from the ransom money even if this is called a livelihood fund.

This disclosure from senator Biazon would only back up Drilon’s statement of betrayal, and probably conspiracy, leading to their abduction. In view of this, it is expected that kidnapping for ransom does not end with Ces Drillon. Expect more to come as some observers put it. 

But as far as President’s Arroyo is concerned, there is a need to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf Group to usher in peace in development in Mindanao. As of this writing the police and military are conducting a hot pursuit operations against the kidnappers and elements of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf. Will this signal an end to kidnapping in Mindanao?



  1. I’ve been following the news of the kidnapping seems like watching a movie..but i am confused on Puno.He said he never talked to Alvarez Isnaji before…but in other news i read..Puno was the one who directed Alvarez Isnaji to continue the negotiations…Then the evidence given by DILG and PNP seems absurd.The photo just shows Isnaji, Lady Ann Sahidulla and other Goverment Officials…but They keep saying that Isnaji took some of the Ransom…I wonder why They cannot clarify more on the evidence…??
    My conclusion is that Isnaji’s are innocent..the PNP and DILG just want to show that they have done their part and wants to gain some from this high profile case.They cannot arrest the ASG’s in the Jungle…so they arrest the Heroes in Manila…
    We at the Human Rights NGO’s will try help the Isnaji’s legally and financially…The case will go on…beware

  2. Hello Jack,
    Thank you for dropping by, and thanks a lot for the comment.
    There is an adage, we’d rather have a criminal roaming free than an innocent guy locked in jail.

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