2 fishing boat crew freed, operator kept by captors PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 February 2016 14:20

Two fishing boat crew kidnapped along with their employer on February 14 have been released by suspected Abu Sayyaf captors in Sulu province.

Lieutenant Commander Jerome Cayabyab of the Philippine Coast Guard in Sulu was quoted on Saturday by ABS-CBN News as saying the two boat crew —  Romeo Rubio and Winnie Pandiag — showed up at the coast guard station in Jolo port one day after they were snatched in midsea between Zamboanga City and Basilan.

Rubio and Pandiag along with fishing boat operator Ronnie Bancale left Zamboanga City on February 14 aboard Kyle Kian for a fishing venture when gunmen aboard another seacraft seized them in Basilan Strait.

Cayabyab said the two showed up at the coast guard station in Jolo port past 9 a.m. on February 15 and gave a different statement saying their fishing boat capsized off Siasi, Sulu due to strong winds and big waves. They claimed they were rescued by fishermen and brought to Jolo town.

Bancala, owner of the fishing vessel, is still missing.

The coast guard helped the two crew members board a ferry for Zamboanga City, where police investigators interrogated them again during which they admitted that they were indeed abducted by six gunmen off Basilan Strait.

Police quoted the duo as saying that men aboard a motorboat pretended to be fishermen and asked for their help claiming their boat engine would not function.

Pulling out their guns, the men seized Rubio, Pandiag and Bancale and brought them to a secluded area in Sulu. Hours later, the kidnappers released Rubio and Pandiag but kept Bancale.

They told police investigators that they were terrified to tell the true story to coast guard officers, thinking that they were still not in a safe place.

Police Regional Office spokesperson Chief Insp. Rogelio Alabata confirmed that the kidnappers had demanded a P1 million ransom for the release of Bancale. The information was relayed to the police by his wife, Marilou Bancale, after receiving a phone call from the kidnappers.

The director of Maritime Industry Authority in Region 9, Irving Saipudin, said the fishing boat was not registered in their office.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs frequently operate in the Zamboanga Peninsula and the island provinces of Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

They use isolated sea-lanes and coastal areas to grab their victims, who are then held captive in isolated villages in the peninsula and Sulu.

The kidnappers are known to hand over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the group.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several captives, including two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina kidnapped from a resort in September for whose release it has demanded a ransom of more than $60 million.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf — armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles — has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions 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.