Kidnappers free US citizen; son, cousin still captive PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 16:30

An American citizen kidnapped with her 14-year-old son and distant cousin nearly three months ago in Sacol Island, this city was freed on late Sunday night in Maluso town, Basilan.

The freed kidnap victim, Gerfa Yeats Lunsmann, 47,  was recovered by government security forces around 10 p.m. in Sitio Suba Kampong, Brgy. Townsite.
A military report disclosed that Lunsmann was seen arriving in Maluso aboard a motorized pumpboat escorted by masked gunmen believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Cabangbang said the pumpboat dropped anchor at the Maluso wharf and the gunmen let Lunsmann walk away towards the shore.

Lunsmann was later fetched by authorities and was brought to the Maluso Police Station for debriefing.

However authorities disclosed that Lunsmann’s son Kevin Eric 14, and distant cousin Romnick Jakaria  remain in captivity.

Authorities are also mum on whether or not ransom was paid for the release of Lunsmann.      

Lunsmann and her son arrived in Zamboanga City on the last week of August. They stayed at their rest house in Tictabon, Sacol Island where gunmen aboard two pumpboats appeared and seized them.

Lunsmanns’ bodyguards were ordered by the gunmen to lie down as they dragged the hostages.

Lunsmann was born in Zamboanga City and was adopted by a US citizen when she was nine years old. She was brought to Virginia, U.S.A. where she grew up and married a German national.

Lunsmann’s husband was in the United States when the kidnapping took place.

She also owns a house in Pangapuyan, this city.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, chairman of the City Crisis Management Committee and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo presented Mrs. Lunsmann to the media past 9 a.m. yesterday in City Hall but the freed kidnap victim requested for no interviews.

Mrs. Lunsmann looked haggard and exhausted and remains to be in ordeal as her son is still in the hands of the kidnappers.

Mayor Lobregat said Gerfa was released past 11 Sunday night in Maluso and flown to Zamboanga via the Western Mindanao Command past 3 a.m. Monday.

In a press briefing together with Mayor Lobregat and Regional Police-9 Director PCSupt. Elpidio de Asis, Sec. Robredo acknowledged the work done by the Crisis
Management Committee headed by the mayor in securing the release of Mrs. Lunsmann. “But in as much as we have not fully resolved the case we will continue to work with the CMC and other agencies involved. We will try to put a final closure on this as soon as possible and we are seeking the cooperation of the members of the media in as much as this is really a very sensitive case, the cooperation of everyone is really solicited”.

Lobregat, during the press briefing said, he received a call from Mr. Lunsmann from the States mid-September informing him that the kidnappers would contact him for the release of his wife and son. However, he said, the abductors released only Mrs. Lunsmann despite appeals to release both mother and son including the nephew. He expressed surprise why the kidnappers wanted to contact him.

He stressed that every move he made prior to the release of Mrs. Lunsmann was with the knowledge and guidance of Sec. Robredo and the US government.
The mayor met Mrs. Lunsmann upon her arrival at the Western Mindanao Command Sunday dawn and set for the presentation at City Hall.

US Ambassador Harry Thomas also called up Lobregat early dawn Monday to thank him for his efforts.

Reacting to queries concerning the US government’s intervention in the kidnapping case, Sec. Robredo said it is only but proper that the Philippine government consult with its US counterpart in as much as there is a foreign national involved. However, he stressed there is no US Intervention in terms of getting involved in the negotiations, operations and as to how the hostage will be released. He said the intervention was more of getting the US position, assistance in as much as a foreign national is involved.

On the other hand, he said, the Lunsmann case is rather a peculiar case as normally, the chair of the CMC doesn’t negotiate or deal with the kidnappers “but in this case we requested the mayor to personally handle it himself in as much as this was also requested by the other parties and we felt that given the seriousness and seriousness and the delicateness of the issue it was best that the chair of the CMC handle it”.

When asked about the payment of ransom for Mrs. Lunsmann’s, the DILG secretary could neither confirmed nor denied but asked that the public respect whatever  agreements were arrived at by the kidnappers and Lunsmann’s husband prior to the release. “Ang kausap niya ang asawa ng biktima, kung ano po yong napag-usapan nila, igalang natin yong information na yon”.

Nevertheless, the secretary assured that the government—both the Philippines and the US did not pay any ransom for the release.
Robredo also revealed that President Noynoy Aquino has been briefed about the situation, that it is handled by the CMC “and we felt that it was best that the local committee handle it”.

On the other hand, Mrs. Lunsmann will be brought to Manila for further examination and recovery. “We will have to let Gerfa really recover,” the mayor said.
The mayor likewise acknowledged the help of PNP-ARMM director PCSupt. Romeo Latag in securing Mrs. Lunsmann’s release. City Police Director Col. Edwin de Ocampo as well as Task Force Zamboanga chief Col. Buenaventura Pascual have also been very helpful in the release of Mrs. Lunsmann.

It was coincidental that Sec. Robredo was proceeding to Jolo yesterday to set up the sub-regional police unit in the province when he decided to pass by Zamboanga City to meet with Mrs. Lunsmann and Mayor Lobregat at City Hall.  — Dan Toribio Jr. and Sheila Covarrubias