Freed mayor’s grandson reunites with family in ZC PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 09 February 2016 11:42

By DAN TORIBIO JR.

The three-year-old grandson of a Zamboanga del Sur town mayor, kidnapped together with his sister and a teenage bakery worker in March last year, reunited Monday with his family in Zamboanga City hours after he was found alone in the Abu Sayyaf stronghold Jolo island on Sunday.

Ace Jay Garban, grandson of Richard Garban, mayor of Pitogo town, Zamboanga del Sur province, was fetched by relatives in Zamboanga City where he was brought by military authorities hours after a civilian found him along the road in Indanan town, Sulu province.

“He was spotted walking without companion. Immediately, the person approached the child and brought him to a nearby post at the Jolo Internal Defense Force in Jolo,”  Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command,” told reporters.

About 10 gunmen seized Ace, his two-year old sister Zynielle Jay and neighbor, 17-year old bakery cashier Ledegie Tomarong, in Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur in March last after they failed to grab their kidnap target, a businesswoman.

The three hostages were seized while playing near the town port. They were used as human shields, which prevented police from pursuing the abductors.

Zynielle’s body was found floating off the Pitogo fish port weeks later.

Tomarong escaped from her captors in Sulu in July last year.

Zynielle was believed to have been strangled by the kidnappers as she had bruises around her neck.

The gunmen - believed to have links to the notorious Abu Sayyaf group - fled aboard three motorized boats which sped towards Sulu.

A month after the abduction, Mayor Garban said the kidnappers sent text messages to the families of the two hostages demanding P60 million ($1.34 million) ransom.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs frequently operate in the Zamboanga peninsula region - Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga City.

Police sources the gangs turn their captives over to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the al-Qaeda-linked group.

Also in July 2014, the nine-year-old daughter of a businessman was snatched in Olutanga town, Zamboanga Sibugay, at a family-owned eatery, and a school official was taken in August.

In January last year, the gangs snared a Korean businessman in January and a head teacher and teacher in March.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortion in a self-determined fight for an independent Islamic province in the Philippines.

It is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.