Philippine National Police submits video of Samal kidnap victims for verification
By Lilian C. Mellejor

DAVAO CITY, Oct. 14 (PNA) -- The Philippine National Police (PNP) submitted for verification the video of the three foreigners and Filipina snatched by armed men from the Holiday Ocean View Resort that surfaced in the video-sharing site Youtube dated Oct. 12.

PNP 11 spokesperson Antonio Rivera, however, did not confirm if they were indeed the Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Maritess Flor. He only hinted that the persons sitting on the ground surrounded by 12 heavily armed men looked like the abduction victims.

Rivera said the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) could not confirm the truthfulness of the video. However, he said if it was authentic, at least there was one proof that the victims were alive.

“SITG did not receive any reports of any demand,” Rivera told reporters during the AFP-PNP press conference on Wednesday at Royal Mandaya Hotel. He added that there was no communication of sort with the owners of the resort from the abductors.

Rivera said it was not only the SITG that investigated the Samal abduction incident but there were other units working on it.

Rivera would not also confirm there was a standing Php 3 billion demand for the release of the victims and a USD 2 million for the proof of life.

In the video, the 3 foreigners appealed for government authorities to stop military operations against the gunmen. Introducing himself as Robert Hall, he said he was okay but in grave danger. Hall then appealed to his family and the Canadian government to ask the Philippine government to stop the bombings.

The second person who introduced himself as Sekkingstad appealed to the owner of the resort to “please meet their demands or else we will be possibly dead”. Sekkingstad, who was the manager of Ocean View, is the brother-in-law of the resort owner.

It was the third person, Ridsdel, asked for the stoppage of the artillery fires and overhead flights near them. One of the 12 armed men was holding the head of Ridsdel with the other hand holding a machete.

In the same video, another armed man with fully-covered face and sporting sunglasses repeated demand to halt military operations in order to start negotiations for the safe release of the four victims.

Speaking in English with a bit of twang slang read a message to the Canadian and Philippine governments for their cooperation and meet all requirements such as stoppage of military operations, no artillery attacks then negotiations and demands can start.

They then all chanted “takbir” after reading the message.

According to military sources, the military operation in the area since Oct. 8 was aimed at Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, who was reported involved in the kidnapping three Americans in 2001 and has a million bounty in his head.

The head of the 10th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, Col. Norman Zuniega, said that only the technical people could say if the video was authentic.

Zuniega also would not confirm if there is an ongoing military operation in the area, saying, “I do not know the operational tempo in the area. Only the command on the ground knows about it.”

Zuniega, however, said it was but normal for government forces to put pressure against any terrorist groups. (PNA)

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