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Part 2: The Possible Untold Story in the Abduction of Ces Drilon

June 27, 2008

A full week has passed since Ces Drllon, jimmy Encarnacion, Angelo Valderama and peace advocate Octavio Dinampo were released from 9 days in captivity in the hands of suspects Abu Sayyaf bandits (as the military wants to refer to them. You would think then that after undergoing police and military “debriefing” sessions and psychiatric trauma assessment and counseling the ex-hoxtages would now be properly back at work, specially the journalists, whose second nature it is to shake off their recent sad experience with work, work, and more work.

But not so for Ces Drilon who was today reportedly served a suspension memorandum for violating strict protocols against unauthorized coverages. Ces herself had admitted after being released that she “had put the lives of her camera team in jeopardy” for going into the coverage ‘target area’ without military security escorts.

But such suspension is not a career-ender, we are sure, as Drilon and her team were still able to bring home exclusive video from their trip and which will be the subject of an eventual ABS-CBN news special, albeit minus the earlier intended “special event” coverage featuring ASG chieftain Rahdulan Sahiron.

Setting this angle aside, the other aspect of our analysis of the possible untold story in the Drilon abduction, separate from the national security aspect, is the political facet.

Are the accused principal suspects, father and son Alvarez and Haider Isnaji really just kidnap-for-ransom artists or do their political personas in Sulu factor into their own current captivity?

Last week as the Isnajis languished inside the hot confines of the Philippine National Police high-security custodial center normally reserved for military rebels and other national security detainees, their supporters in Indanan town held a noisy demonstration denouncing their detention, even slamming Drilon and company for “allowing that the erstwhile negotiators to be accused of kidnapping, while mayor Isnaji and his son “had saved their lives.”

The Isnajis’ erstwhile defense lawyer Firdaussi Abbas, who has since been replaced for his “unauthorized statement” even claimed that ABC-CBN and a certain ”Mr. and Mrs. X’ had paid the balance of P15M sought as ransom by the abductors, with the network categorically denying the same.

Abbas’ statement has since been disowned by the Isnajis saying, through their new lawyer that they “do not have first hand knowledge” of who actually paid the balance of the 15-million =peso ransom demanded by the kidnappers over above the first ‘tranche’ put together by the clan of Ces, as admitted by Ambassador Edgardo Espiritu, a brother of Ces’ mother. It will be recalled Abbas apparently got the ire of the Isnajis for also reportedly saying “a top government official was the anonymous ransom ‘donor’.

In this roller coaster turn of statements the questions alternately surfacing include the implication the Isnajis are being used as scapegoats – that they are being framed.

This then raises the other question – who stands to gain from the Isnajis being jailed and their name smeared so close to the ARMM elections where the elder Isnaji, an MNLF commander with the rank of luietenant general. is among seven gubernatorial aspirants.

Interestingly, those mayor Alvarez Isnaji is running against include Malacanang ally, reelectionist ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

In the aftermath of the Drilon abduction, the political alignments are increasingly the talk of the town in Sulu, or at least in Jolo, with deputy governor Lady Ann Sahihullah’s close association with the Ampatuans publicly known.

It will be recalled that at the height of the hostage crisis, while the Isnajis were dubbed the ‘preferred negotiators’ of the Abus, Sahidullah was herself ‘designated’ by governor Tan as the negotiator for the government.

This ‘rivalry’came out in the open in the late evening of June 17 through to midnight when the freed captives were immediately brought by the Isnajis to their own residence inIndanan, with the ransom money money being hand counted right there and then.

The Ransom Accounting

The events of the coming weeks and months will show if the charges against the Isnajis will be supported by evidence, including witness testimonies which the PNP says it has, and if Sulu itself can shake off the negative publicity’ from the Drilon abduction so loudly denounced by the province’s chief executive.

One widely-circulating blind item in and around Mindanao is which politician-businessman owns the 54-filling stations-network of Chevron. Certainly that entity, this writer’s sources say, has a well oiled and very liquid political war chest from which logistics can readily be drawn.

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