The Abduction of CES OREÑA-DRILON
This running story first broke on the news wires of the Associated Press and is being carried both by the International Herald Tribune, with at least two local broadsheets bannering the report despite a news blackout clamped by police authorities and, in journalistic parlance, a story embargo requested by ABS-CBN, a practice normally honored by all journalists.
However, with the AP having broken the embargo first and both Tribune and SunStar Daily Cebu running it, along with IHT, this writer is now sharing these details after having confirmed the same from my own sources in the mainstream working press in Manila:
Ces Drilon and her two-member news crew went missing Saturday, June 7 but our sources confirmed they had actually been “abducted” after ABS-CBN network receIved the ransom demand. The story was also broken to media by the ARMM police chief Joel Goltiao. A text message is making the rounds quoting a ransom price considerably higher than that being reported by the Daily Tribune.
It remains unclear but it is reported that a certain Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo was in touch or was traveling with the ABS-CBN team of Ces. My sources tell me Ces herself decided last Saturday to go on the coverage based on the tip that an unnamed ASG personality was “going to surrender.”
From the media reports now emerging, on Sunday morning Dinampo picked them up from the Mindanao State University hostel, and armed men identified as being under a certain ASG commander Albader Parad intercepted them as their vehicle passed through Kulasi village, ARMM police chief Joel Goltiao said.
The Maimbung police chief reported sightings in the Kulasi area and of people with a video camera inside a vehicle.
The Daily Tribune report written by its editor in chief, the feisty Ninez Cacho Olivares says the newspaper’s “intelligence sorce Drilon and her group “were last tracked somewhere at the foothills of Mt. Tumatangis, Indanan Sulu.
“We convened the provincial crisis management committee to send feelers to negotiate with the abductors, but the abductors have not yet said anything,” ARMM police chief Goltiao said by telephone, according to an AP wire story.
The report gives this further background: “Abu Sayyaf is estimated to have 380 fighters, down from more than 1,000 eight years ago. It has been weakened by U.S.-backed military offensives that have led to the killing and capture of many of its leaders and members.”
“But police said the militants have continued to plot attacks, including against U.S. soldiers who have been providing counter-terrorism training to Filipino troops in Jolo and nearby provinces.
Washington has blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings, such as the 2001 abduction from a resort island of 21 people who included three Americans.
Philippine military and police officials say the group which seeks a separate state for the country’s Muslim minority has received training and funds from al-Qaeda militants in the past.”
My own sources from at least two other major publications confirm the other details while ABS-CBN is set to issue an official statement on this breaking news within the day.
This writer knows Ces personally, having worked with her at the government-run Maharlike Broadcasting System, now NBN Channel 4, before EDSA 1. She is married to painter Rock Drilon, a nephew of former senate president Franklin Drilon.
This turn of events adds a disturbing dimension to the situation in Mindanao, coming as it does after the spate of bombings in Zamboanga and the Lanao provinces, and the skirmishes in Basilan involving either MILF, MNLF or Abu Sayyaf elements.
Whether authorities call these incidents terrorist attacks or banditry, the aspect of even working journalists being dragged into the fray despite their being civilian ‘non-combatants’ speaks volumes about the volatility of the situation and the lack of control government has in the troubled South.
A new report from the Cebu Sunstar now says ,”he MILF, in confirming Drilon’s abduction, reported that the television reporter’s group was kidnapped by an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader, a certain Gafur Gumbahali.
Gafur, the report added, is the brother of dreaded Abu Sayyaf leader Dr. Abu Jumdail Gumbahali.”
We are sure the official line is that government will never negotiate with kidnappers, but the reality is different with conduits and back channels always the alternatives.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has issued a statement expressing its concern for the safety of the ABS-CBN crew.
Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said. “It is great cause for concern that this volatile southern region of the Philippines remains insecure for the press, and we call on local authorities to work diligently to secure their safe and swift release.”
The foremost consideration always is the safe recovery of the victims.
(Latest reports say even political science professor Dinampo was taken by the Abu Sayyaf abdectors of Drilon and her news crew.