Lunsmann’s captors establish contact, demand ransom—Celso Print
Monday, 18 July 2011 16:54

Mayor Celso Lobregat revealed over the weekend that captors of Gerfa Lunsmann and son Kevin have established contacts with her husband in the United States demanding an undetermined amount as ransom for the release of their hostages.

The contact, done through phone Thursday (July 14) morning (US time) was very brief and fast, according to the mayor, citing information relayed by Task Force Lunsmann.

He also would not divulge the amount demanded stressing that he can only give information that will not in any way affect the safety and lives of the victims as this is the primary concern at the moment.

In view of this, Mayor Lobregat, head of the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) said the Lunsmann case has been shifted from abduction to kidnap for ransom case.

“I would like to state that contact has been made to the husband in the US and that there is a demand” the mayor pronounced during a press briefing Saturday night at City Hall. “This now changes the status of the case from abduction to kidnapping. We also have to advise you again that the primary concern of everybody is the life and safety of the victims so we can only give you the information that will not in any way affect the safety and lives of the victims”.
When asked by a media man to confirm reports that the ransom demand is $10 million, the mayor neither confirmed nor denied the same but described the amount referred to by the reporter as a very huge amount and unbelievable. “We are confirming now that there has been contact but the amount I will not confirm or deny because the amount you’re telling me is unbelievable”.

Ten million dollars is equivalent to almost P500 million or half a billion pesos.
As to the earlier report posted by international reporters on line stating that the ransom is $2 million, the mayor said the particular report was published July 12 or days before the contact was made July 14. “At that time there were no contacts or demands whatsoever so it is relevant to look at the date, there was no demand at that time yet”.

“From information we gathered the call was very short and was cut off right away”, the CMC chair stressed. He said authorities have yet to ascertain the location and the group holding the 42-year old Gerfa, her 14-year old son Kevin Eric and 19 year old nephew Romrick Jakaria, captive.

He said there is no “eyeball contact” as of yet but both police and military authorities have been burning the wires and coordinating efforts with their counterpart operatives in the provinces and municipalities to locate the victims and identify the kidnappers.

On the other hand, the mayor who faced the media together with City Police OIC director Sr. Supt. Edwin de Ocampo and Task Force Zamboanga Chief Col. Buenaventural Pascual, said both the Philippine and US governments maintain the no ransom policy in kidnapping situations. He also emphasized that there is no consideration of any rescue operation at the moment not only because the whereabouts of the victims and their captors are undetermined but also because the primary concern is the safety and lives of the victims.

The CMC, the national government and the US governments are cooperating with each other in terms of information from the side of the Lunsmann relatives in Virginia, USA.

“Everybody’s objective is the life and safety of the victims, we don’t want to jeopardize any impending investigation and so like I said I am very careful on what information I give you but it is truthful and factual but there are certain things that I cannot reveal”, the CMC chair told the media.

Mrs. Lunsmann, a native of Pangapuyan and naturalized American citizen; her son Kevin, an American citizen by birth and her nephew Romrick were snatched by armed men aboard two pumpboats Tuesday dawn (July 12) in the island barangay of Tigtabon.

Mrs. Lunsmann is married to a German national named Hiko who was not with them when the incident happened. The Lunsmanns were on vacation in the island and were set to return to the States the day they were abducted. — Sheila Covarrubias