THE Abu Sayyaf set free a South Korean ship captain and his Filipino crewman who were abducted from their vessel off the coast of Tawi-Tawi last October, officials said Saturday.
Sources said Capt. Park Chul Hong and Filipino crewman Glenn Alindajao were released after the payment of a P25-million ransom with the mediation of former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan but Peace Secretary Jesus Dureza maintained the government stuck to its no-ransom policy.
The Abu Sayyaf released Park and Alindajao to Moro National Liberation Front members Abraham Joel and Adon Adak in Indanan town and they were later turned over to Dureza at the residence of the former Sulu governor.
The abduction on board the 11,400-ton heavy load carrier Dong Bang Giant 2 occurred Oct. 20 just off the southern entry of the Sibutu Passage, a 29-kilometer wide channel used by merchant shipping in transit between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The cargo ship was heading for South Korea from Australia.
The gunmen boarded the vessel and hurriedly took Park and Alindajao at gunpoint. The rest of the crew members, mostly Filipinos, managed to escaped by hiding and locking themselves inside their cabins. The two captives were then taken somewhere in Sulu.
“They were released from captivity this morning. The Moro National Liberation Front [MNLF] based in Barangay Kagay facilitated the release of the kidnapped victims,” said Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command.
The two captives were presented to the media in Davao City and subsequently airlifted to Manila where Park was handed over to South Korean embassy officials.
In a press briefing, Dureza could not give details on who was behind the abduction but sources said the kidnappers were bandits under the leadership of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Alden Bagade, a notorious gunmen operating in Sulu.
The two seafarers were beaten by their captors and forced to sleep in the jungle while eating dried fish and drinking unclean water, Dureza said.
“We were almost hopeless but I am thankful we were able to come home safely,” Filipino crewman Glenn Alindajao, 31, said in a news briefing.
The 38-year-old Park did not speak with reporters but like Alindajao, appeared weak and grew a beard while in captivity.
“They were physically maltreated without any provocation,” Dureza told AFP. “They have been very stressed out. They were moved from one place to another, sometimes sleeping in forests, different houses, eating just dried fish and drinking water from brooks.”
Dureza said the Muslim rebel group the MNLF, which is in peace talks with the government, helped in facilitating the hostages’ release.
The ship’s owners also negotiated for their freedom, according to Dureza, adding that he was not aware if a ransom was paid to Abu Sayyaf, which does not normally free hostages without huge sums of money.
The spike in abductions sparked Indonesian warnings that the region could become the “next Somalia” and pushed the three neighbors to pledge coordinated patrols.
Dureza said he would recommend that ships have armed security.
Duterte, who took office last year, vowed to destroy the Abu Sayyaf and deployed thousands of extra troops to defeat them.
But the militants have defied more than a decade of similar US-backed offensives, surviving in their mountainous and jungle-clad strongholds in the poverty-plagued southern Philippines.
“The two hostages even planned to escape but they could not. They discovered that the community around is very supportive,” Dureza said. “They are able to benefit from [the kidnappings].” With AFP