Bandits, rebels involved in Zambo farmer’s kidnapping — AFP

May 6, 2009 3:17 am 

ZAMBOANGA CITY, May 5 — A military official disclosed that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits and some members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels were the ones who kidnapped a farmer in a far-flung barangay in this southern port city.

Col. Santiago Baluyut, Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) chief, said this was learned from the three people they invited last week for questioning to shed light on the kidnapping of the farmer.

The victim, Doroteo Gonzales, who shifted his livelihood into farming after retiring from carpentry works, was seized by 11 gunmen around 7:30 p.m. of April 25 in Barangay Buenavista, 54 kms. east of this city.

Baluyut disclosed only one of the three people that were placed under investigation was positively identified by witnesses as one of the suspects who seized Gonzales. Baluyut said the testimonies of the TFZ witnesses corroborated the statement of the witnesses of the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO), pointing to one of the three as involved in Gonzales’ kidnapping.

A criminal complaint for kidnapping with ransom was filed last Friday before the City Prosecutor’s Office against the suspect who is in the custody of the ZCPO.

The other two were released since the witnesses did not identify them as part of the group of kidnappers that seized Gonzales.

Baluyut said they have yet to establish the whereabouts of Gonzales.

Operatives of the Police Station 3 on Monday have found the motorized banca that was used in the kidnapping of Gonzales.

Senior Insp. Joel Tutuh, Police Station 3 chief, said the owner, whose identity was withheld, of the seized motorized banca was placed under investigation.

During the incident, Gonzales was dragged by the kidnappers towards the coastal area of barangay Buenavista and sped to the high seas.

Mayor Celso Lobregat, who chairs the Crisis Management Committee(CMC), said the kidnappers have reduced to P5 million the ransom demand in exchange for the release of Gonzales.

Lobregat said the reduced ransom demand was relayed last Friday to Gonzales’ daughter, Edna.

Lobregat said it was the second time the kidnappers have lowered the amount of the ransom demand after the families have disclosed that they don’t have the capacity to pay.

The original demand of the kidnappers relayed to the family last April 29 to the family of the victim, was P20 million.

Last April 30, the kidnappers contacted again the family of Gonzales telling them that the ransom was lowered by half or to the amount of P10 million.

Lobregat emphasized that no ransom will be paid to the kidnappers in compliance with the government no-ransom standing policy despite the kidnappers have reduced the amount of the ransom demand.

The kidnapping of Gonzales was the second that took place this year in this southern port city.

Last January 23, three teachers assigned in a public school in Sacol Island, 34 kilometers from this city, was seized by a group of kidnappers and brought the victims to Basilan province.

The kidnappers have reduced the ransom to P3 million from the original demand of P6 million or at P2 million each. (PNA)

DCT/wi/TPG/utb

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