Jun 19

Ces Drilon: “It was a sobering experience”

As of 11:00 P.M. June 17, 2008, broadcaster Ces Drilon, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Professor Dinampo, have been freed by their bandit kidnappers in Indanan, Sulu. A few hours after the freed hostages were delivered to Mayor Isnaji’s son, they were flown via a Huey helicopter to a military camp for debriefing. All negotiators, including Senator Loren Legarda, as well as military and police officials vehemently denied payment of the P15 million ransom demanded earlier, but of course, that could also be part of the whole negotiation/agreement, we don’t really know.

ces drilon freed
How Newscaster Ces Became the News

Drilon was laughing and crying during the initial press conference, visibly happy and relieved despite her wretched appearance. She thanked all the negotiators, her peers in the media and her Kapamilya network for all the help and prayers. She was also very apologetic to her superiors and local military commanders “for being stubborn and failing to follow protocols” and to her family and the families of her crew for subjecting them to this ordeal.

“I’ve been in and out of Mindanao, and I want to understand the situation here. Sa kasamaang palad (Unfortunately), there was some betrayal involved, and we were kidnapped,” she told reporters early Wednesday in Zamboanga City.

She refused to get into the details but simply said, “We’ll get there. We are cooperating with the investigation and we condemn [the kidnappers] for what they did.”

Drilon and her crew were in Sulu province for a “hush-hush” exclusive interview with a member of the Abu Sayyaf but were instead kidnapped by armed men on June 8. Dinampo, a professor of Mindanao State University who has access to the bandit group, served as their guide, together with one of the latter’s “trusted liaison”, Juamil Biyaw.

Marama Hashim, the driver hired by the ABS-CBN team, had said in a sworn statement that it was Biyaw (allegedly a military agent) who led Drilon et al. to their abductors. Biyaw ordered him to stop the vehicle upon reaching Tubig Adjid in Indanan town, and led the group to the forested area. Four hours later, only Biyaw returned. Biyaw claimed that upon reaching the armed men’s lair, Dinampo told him to go home.

Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, chief of the Sulu-based Task Force Comet, said Biyaw was released from the Marines’ custody after denying the allegations against him.

Dinampo admitted that Biyaw had been helping him in peace-building work in Sulu. “I thought I could trust him [Biyaw] with my life. Well, it turns out I was wrong,” Dinampo said.

The professor also said Biyaw “left our fate in the hands of our captors, and he implicated me to the kidnapping. But I know the truth will prevail ultimately, and I know Allah is fair and just.”

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