Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Manila Times: Dos Palmas and Pearl Farm

March 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Gloria confirms MILF deal, by Joel San Juan, and Al Omar Arafath,
May 24, 2001, Manila Times, Sayyaf bandits attack island resort, kill 2 take 2 hostages, Anthony Allada,
May 25, 2001, The Manila Times, Pearl Farm gang took 12, freed 8, by Anthony Allada, Dennis Jay Santos
May 26, 2001, The Manila Times, Clash with Pearl Farm attackers kills trooper, by Eldie S. Aguirre,
May 27, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu bandits free 38 hostages, by Maritess Fernandez,
May 28, 2001, BusinessWorld, 20 abducted as raiders attack Palawan resort, Ruffy Villanueva C Visto,
May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Americans kidnapped Former TIMES owner among 21 hostages,
May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, KL sends patrol ships, planes to border,
May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, AFP ops vs Reds go on despite peace talks, by Mary Joyce C. Osmeña,
May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Palace rules out talks with bandits, Joel R. San Juan, Artemio Dumlao,
May 29, 2001, The Manila Times, Sayyaf owns resort kidnaps, by Jeannette Andrade,
May 30, 2001, The Manila Times, MA: Free hostages or face bullets, Joel R. San Juan, Johnna Villaviray,
May 30, 2001, The Manila Times, Try rescue, we kill them all – Abu Sayyaf,
May 30, 3001, The Manila Times, US steps up hostage role,
May 31, 2001, The Manila Times, Hard-hitting radio commentator slain in Zamboanga,
May 31, 2001, Manila Times, Resorts in Visayas tighten own security, Rizel C. Sabanal, Manuel Satorre Jr.,
May 31, 2001, Manila Times, Gov’t backtracks on vigilantes vs Abus, Ma. Theresa Torres, Joel San Juan,
May 31, 2001, The Manila Times, RP tourism braces for tough year, by Joel San Juan, [missing text]
June 1, 2001, The Manila Times, Hostages in Basilan, by Johnna Villaviray, Jeannette Andrade
June 1, 2001, The Manila Times, Ex-broadcaster, companion found dead in Or. Mindoro,
June 1, 2001, The Manila Times, Army assures safety of Boracay tourists,
June 2, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu Clash Kill 2 Troops, by Joel San Juan [missing link]
June 2, 2001, The Manila Times, Cebu resorts seal joint security deal, by Faronah L. Bojos,
June 2, 2001, The Manila Times, Editorial, Newsmen in the line of fire, [missing text]
June 2, 2001, Manila Times, Op-Ed, Stop embarrassing the AFP, by Jun Bautista,
June 3, 2001, Manila Times, 18 Sayyaf hostages rescued, But terrorists raid Basilan town, seize 200 more,
June 3, 2001, The Manila Times, President Arroyo’s statement on the rescue of Abu hostages,
June 3, 2001, The Manila Times, Daybreak: 'Just a woman,'
June 3, 2001, The Manila Times, Without bloodshed: Muslims call for complete Mindanao independence,
June 3, 2001, The Manila Times, Politicians created Abus, say Muslims, [missing text]
June 3, 2001, The Manila Times, Op-Ed, A Second Look, To be continued, by Amante E. Bigorniab
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Abus breach army cordon, by Joel San Juan and Marian Trinidad,
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Gov't, MILF peace panels resuming talks this month
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu Sayyaf, just a symptom of a deeper problem, Iris Cecilia Gonzales,
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Bandits kill 2 captives, 4 church workers, Joel San Juan, Marian Trinidad
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Destabilizing fallout from new hostage crisis feared,
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Day Break: What’s going on in the Times?
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Editorial, The future of Mindanao, [missing text]
June 4, 2001, The Manila Times, Editorial, Bearer of our sword, By Eric F. Mallonga, [missing text]
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, US for drive vs Abu, by Johnna Villaviray, Jeannette Andrade,
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, Emergency status for Basilan soon, by Joel San Juan, Jeannette Andrade,
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu: P10M per hostage, Military probes role of 2 foreigners in kidnaps
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, Daybreak: Visibility of the 'invisible hand,'
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, 2nd in 2 weeks, Another Mindoro journalist killed, [missing text]
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, PNP arms Samal officials, volunteers, [missing link]
June 5, 2001, The Manila Times, Jaafar: GMA war vs Abu to breed more rebels B. Timonera [missing link]
June 6, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu Sayyaf: CIA monster gone berserk, by Edmundo Santuario III,
June 6, 2001, The Manila Times, Emergency plan draws heavy flak, Mirasol Ng-Gadil, M Ramos-Araneta,
June 6, 2001, The Manila Times, Impatient Gloria vows to finish off Abu.
June 6, 2001, The Manila Times, KL, Manila to hold security talks in kidnappings' wake
June 6, 2001, The Manila Times, MILF peace talks start June 20, by Johnna Villaviray, [missing text]
January 10, 2002, The Manila Times, Letters, Missing in action,
June 14, 2001, The Manila Times, MILF gets sweetener, Joel R. San Juan,
June 18, 2001, The Manila Times, Palace: No ceasefire to salvage talks with Reds Joel R. San Juan
June 18, 2001, The Manila Times, Gov't to MILF: Declare battle-free zones in talks, by Jowel F. Canuday,
June 18, 2001, Manila Times, Completion of four ports in Mindanao, Visayas pushed, Cesar T. Bilowan,
June 19, 2001, The Manila Times, Libya playing MILF card to gain respect?, by Johnna Villaviray,


March 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Gloria confirms MILF deal, by Joel San Juan, and Al Omar Arafath, Mindanao News Bureau

PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo con-firmed yesterday the signing of an accord that would pave the way for the resumption of peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), saying her administration wanted to end decades of fighting in Mindanao.

As a result of the agreement, the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has agreed to suspend offensives and will form their negotiating panel shortly, Mrs. Arroyo said, confirming developments which THE MANILA TIMES broke on Monday.

Church and militant groups like the Kilusang Mayo Uno hailed the development in Mindanao. And even the right-wing group, the Young Officers’ Union (YOU), which had earlier threatened to stage a coup over peace efforts, said it would abide with the government’s decision.

Opposition politicians slammed the agreement but were told off by militant groups, who noted that more than a year of deposed president Joseph Estrada’s “all-out war” had not brought peace to the war-torn island.

Former defense chief Orlando Mercado claimed any troop pullout from the sprawling Camp Abubakar would imperil the Saudi government pledge of P1 billion for the base’s development into an economic center.

But Muslim leaders said the government’s decision would spur more investments from Islamic nations.

Ermita, Dureza

The President also verified THE TIMES report Tuesday that said former defense chief and incumbent peace adviser Eduardo Ermita signed on behalf of the government.

She was mum on why Malacañang had kept chief government negotiator Jesus Dureza in the dark, leading the Mindanao official to label THE TIMES exposè "preposterous."

Yesterday, Dureza seemed again to be out of sync. At a press conference, he said there was nothing “secret” about the agreement.

"We want to correct reports that it was not announced and probably perceived as a secret agreement," Dureza said.

While he finally acknowledged a breakthrough, he said it would be announced in the coming days, apparently unaware that Malacañang had already confirmed THE TIMES exposè.

He claimed to have withheld the report in deference to Mrs. Arroyo.

But a day before, raging at THE TIMES, Dureza insisted that there could have been no agreement signed because he reportedly was in constant touch with Ermita.

He even accused THE TIMES of trying to disrupt the peace talks.

Left out

Rebel sources told The Associated Press the MILF was represented in the meeting in Malaysia by its military vice chairman, Al Haj Murad, last seen in a clandestine press conference last November, on the outskirts of captured Camp Abubakar.

With Murad were MILF central committee liaison Lanang Ali and former chief peace negotiator Aleem Abdul Aziz Mimbantas.

"An accord has been signed in Kuala Lumpur. The MILF has agreed to resume the peace talks," the President said in a regular news briefing. She gave no other details and said Ermita, who arrives today, would explain developments.

But MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu, in an interview with THE TIMES, said Dureza was not included because “there are no negotiations yet.”

Kabalu said Dureza was right in saying the MILF has not yet formed its own peace panel.

The rebel group, Kabalu said, was waiting for the signing of this accord before reconstituting its negotiating team.


The MILF spokesman told THE TIMES on Monday that the agreement signed Saturday addressed conditions set by the guerrillas for renewed peace talks.

Rebels want talks held abroad, in a neutral nation, and mediated by a member country of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Among the countries eyed as venue was Malaysia, rebel sources said.

The rebels have also demanded that Mrs. Arroyo’s administration honor agreements forged with previous presidents.

Initially, a rebel source claimed the government has also agreed to pull out troops of Abubakar. Kabalu, however, would not comment on this, except to reiterate he was happy over the “positive actions.”

Meanwhile, KMU secretary-general Elmer Labog said Mercado should keep out of the preparations for the peace negotiations between the Arroyo government and the MILF.

He said Mercado has no right to advice the Arroyo government on how to handle the peace negotiations with the MILF.

"He may have been a civilian when he served as defense chief but he had a 'brutal, militarist mindset,'" Labog said.

"We have not forgotten much less forgiven his role in the relentless and ruthless bombings against Mindanao that have destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Filipinos,” said Labog.

He also urged the National Security Council headed by Roilo Golez should explore all options to forge peace with the MILF. He said the war against Mindanao was instigated by the ousted Estrada government to deflect public attention from its blatant corruption.

He accused Mercado of helping mastermind the attacks, and the twisted information campaign to show that the war was justified. “Neither he nor Estrada should have a say in the peace talks with the MILF,” he added.


Mrs. Arroyo, who took office on Jan. 20, has declared a unilateral ceasefire with the MILF, which is fighting for an independent Islamic nation, but government troops have been allowed to fire back if attacked.

Sporadic fighting has been recorded in recent weeks in Mindanao, the heartland of the Muslim rebellion, despite the ceasefire. The government and rebels have accused each other of instigating the attacks.

Estrada ordered a military offensive against the MILF last year after rebels expanded their camps and intensified attacks. The military recaptured more than 40 MILF-controlled areas, including Abubakar in Maguindanao.


The offensive led to the collapse of talks between Estrada’s administration and the rebels. The rebels have said they want the camps back as part of a deal for peace talks.

The Muslim separatist rebellion in Mindanao, homeland of the country’s Muslim minority, has killed more than 120,000 people since the early 1970s. Some 700,000 others are also displaced by the conflict that has impeded progress in the country’s most resource-rich but one of its poorest regions.
with Macon Ramos-Araneta, Carmelito Francisco and AP

May 25, 2001, The Manila Times, Pearl Farm gang took 12, freed 8, by Anthony Allada, Dennis Jay Santos
and Maritess Fernandez, Mindanao News Bureau, Jeanette Andrade, Reporter

DAVAO CITY—The police yesterday reported that armed men who stormed the Pearl Farm Resort in Samal, Davao del Norte Tuesday night took hostage 12, not two persons, but later released eight.

As Malacañang scrambled to downplay the effect of the attack on a popular resort frequented by tourists, military officials ordered tighter security at southern tourist centers. Soldiers, helicopters and patrol boats hunted an armed band that attacked a beach resort, the military said.

Military Chief of Staff Diomedio Villanueva said soldiers fought sporadically with the 20-member gang throughout the day yesterday. No injuries were reported.

He said the military also sent helicopters and patrol boats to the southern tip of Mindanao island to hunt down the band that tried to storm the Pearl Farm resort Tuesday night.

“Our soldiers are pursuing the buccaneers ... where villagers reported seeing them with the hostages,” Villanueva said, trying the Palace tack of downplaying the possible involvement of the extremist guerrilla group, Abu Sayyaf.

The initial report given by my division commanders was that the suspects are local bandits,” Villanueva said. He said the raiders’ primary goal was to steal, not to take hostages. They merely seized people to have human shields.

The attack on the resort owned by Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floreindo Jr. and his wife, former Miss Universe Margarita “Margie” Moran, has sent jitters through the tourism industry. But Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon said he does not want to pay too much attention on the “bandits,” except to advise resort owners to beef up security.

Task Force

Senior Supt. Eduardo Matillano, Region 11 police director, said the armed men have already released eight of the 12 captives off Malita town in Davao del Sur.

Because of the bloody storming and the abductions, the regional police has formed a composite task force, with the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Air Force, according to Matillano.

"We can arrest the suspects the soonest time possible," he said without giving a deadline.

He did not link the perpetrators to any group.

Matillano said the armed men, who took the 50-seater pump-boat M/V Teresita, held hostage Lando Bayato and engine operator Winnie Duran and brought them to Malita Wednesday noon from the beach resort.

The two hostages were then freed but the group took with them 10 residents from the coastal village to act as guides.

Hours later, six hostages were released. They are Eugenio, Dona, Donato, Renante, Eleuterio, all surnamed Marquez, and Levi Tayog.

Matillano identified the four who are still at the hands of their captors as Hamid Muda, Eden Labani, Ocog Labani, and Dondon Alimana.

Killed in the Tuesday night attack were security guard Jimmy Kulam and mechanic Rolando Jara. Injured were security guards Danny Orbuda, Samuel Morales and Leopoldo Ibañez.

The attack also destroyed two of the resort’s Cougar speedboats and four jet skis.

Not us

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday stressed it was not in anyway involved in the raid.

“It is very unlikely for our forces to do it (attack) because of the impending peace accord we will have with the government,” MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said yesterday in a radio interview.

However, the MILF promised that they will conduct their own investigation to know who the perpetrators were.

“Titingnan natin, pero malayong mangyari yun sa MILF (we will look into it, but it is impossible the MILF will do it),” Kabalu said.

When asked whether the attack was done by the Abu Sayyaf Group, Kabalu would not comment.

Kabalu said that he would try to communicate with a certain Gerry Abubakar, one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders of the 101st brigade operating in the areas of Davao del Sur, to ask him about the incident.

Kabalu also dismissed reports they are at odds with Floreindo.

“Wala kaming galit sa mga Floreindos (We don’t have any ill-feelings with the Floreindos),” Kabalu said.


The attack raised fears that the bandits might have plans to kidnap some foreigners, like what the notorious Abu Sayyaf did to merrymakers in Sipadan, Malaysia in April last year.

The armed suspects were on board two kumpits as they arrived at the Culver Wharf adjacent to Pearl Farm at Kaputian in Samal at around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

The armed men reportedly attempted to dock at the wharf but Kulam, the guard on-duty, confronted them and shouted that they could not dock at the resort since it was prohibited



May 26, 2001, The Manila Times, Clash with Pearl Farm attackers kills trooper

By Eldie S. Aguirre, Rianna Garrido and Carlos Diroca, Mindanao News Bureau

MALITA, Davao del Sur—An army soldier was killed while two others were wounded when pursuing government forces clashed yesterday in a hinterland barangay of this town with a group of armed men who attacked the Pearl Farm Beach Resort on Samal Island, Davao del Norte Tuesday.

In Basilan, an army soldier and three other passengers were killed when several unidentified men opened fire on a jeep they were riding, the military said.

A policeman was injured when he and other companions manning a nearby checkpoint engaged the attackers in a brief gunfight in the provincial capital of Isabela, officials said.

The attackers, armed with automatic weapons, fled down from the bridge and disappeared into a slum community underneath, said army Col. Jovenal Narcise.

Narcise said he could not say if the attackers were Muslim separatist guerrillas, who have a strong presence in Basilan, or residents who have opposed recent military raids on Isabela neighborhoods as part of a campaign against unlicensed guns.

The military said the clash in Malita occurred after they bombarded the lair of the armed group with 81 mm mortar shells from their base camp at Sitio Tala, Barangay Mana.

As the bombardment continued, a composite team of Philippine Army and policemen on board armored personnel carriers (APCs) closed in on the suspects’ hideout in Barangay Kidalapong also in Malita.

In the ensuing firefight, at least one soldier was killed while two others were wounded, according to the military.

The lone fatality was identified as Sgt. Tomas Alamo of the 25th Infantry Battalion. The wounded were not identified.

Hamid Muda, 23, one of the 10 original hostages taken by the armed band escaped Thursday evening. He said that Abu Sayyaf terrorists took him as hostage along with nine other residents of Barangay Kidalapong as they fled toward the hinterlands.


However, the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) insisted they have yet to identify the resort attackers who left two Pearl Farm employees dead.

Brig. Gen. Alfonso Dagudag, head of the 4th Infantry Batallion based in Cagayan de Oro City and also responsible for the Davao provinces, yesterday said authorities are still pursuing the bandits.

Dagudag said the 10 armed men came from the coastline of Davao Oriental and were moving south toward Davao del Sur when they “seemed to have lost their way” and approached the resort.

“The security personnel of the Pearl Farm observed them moving and when accosted, they open fired resulting to the death of the security guard and another resort employee,” he said.

Dagudag said there was “no hostile intent” to land in the resort but the group panicked when the guards accosted them.

"If they intended hostile approach, they should not have approached during low-tide and immediately disengaged when the guards accosted them," he explained.

Dagudag also cautioned against referring the armed men as coming from organized groups. "It is unfair for us to mention any group," he said.


Presidential Assistant Jesus Dureza also warned "grandstanding" government officials to verify their facts first before issuing any statement.

"Some statements will only exacerbate the situation," Dureza said.

Dureza even said that referring the bandits as belonging to the Abu Sayaff is the "height of irresponsibility."

Meanwhile, it’s "all systems go" at Pearl Farm and is fully booked despite the attack by Tuesday.

Alex Groizard, resort general manager, said the Tuesday violence has not stopped the arrival of foreign and domestic tourists in the resort.

"We're fully booked today," Groizard told a press conference held yesterday at the resort’s floating bar.

Melaine Avanceña, marketing and conventions officer, said the STI group composed of 170 delegates stayed at the resort yesterday to have their gala night celebration. The group held a convention at the Marco Polo Hotel.

But Avanceña admitted some of the guests were scared following the incident. She said 118 domestic and foreign guests were in the resort at the time of the incident. Fifty-eight of them however left Pearl Farm the following day.

The guests were composed of 49 Koreans, 44 Filipinos, two Australians and 23 Taiwanese. 

"Yes some were scared but we're trying to counter their fear by informing them that the incident was an isolated case, and we also assured them of enough security in the area.  They already feel that they are safe," Avanceña said. 

She said the resort earlier deployed 18 security guards, augmented by policemen and soldiers.

May 27, 2001, The Manila Times, Abu bandits free 38 hostages, by Maritess Fernandez, Mindanao News Bureau

Armed men who abducted a ferry with 42 people on board released all passengers but kept the four sailors in apparent revenge against a local militia, the military said yesterday, as it reported the deaths of five persons in Isabela, Basilan, during “a misencounter” between a cop and a soldier.

The hijackers, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf, on five speedboats seized a ferry Thursday as it plied the small islands in the Basilan area 1,000 kilometers south of Manila, said Col. Juvenal Narcise, the area military commander.

The victims were brought to the police headquarters in the capital town of Jolo on Saturday after they were freed in the small fishing village of Punungan in Maimbung town, Sulu police chief Candido Casimiro said.

The gunmen hijacked a small vessel Thursday afternoon off Basilan’s Maluso town and seized the victims and then took them to Sulu province.

The military’s Southern Command earlier said the hostages were taken to Patah Island off Sulu province.

In Isabela, Basilan, five persons were killed in a misen­counter between a cop and a soldier.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Domin­guez, commander of the First Infantry Division, said the shootout late Friday afternoon resulted in the death of three civilians and a policeman. Another policeman was also wounded in the gunfight.

“Those killed were onboard a passenger mini-jeep and were caught in the crossfire,” he said. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl, Haifa Salapuddin, said to be a relative of Basilan Rep. Abdulgani Salapuddin.

The military earlier said that unidentified gunmen opened fire on the jeep while it was passing Aguada bridge, adding that the assailants had retreated in slum area nearby.

Dominguez, however, gave a different version. He said a soldier, Pfc. Abdulhussin Ahamad, was walking near the bridge when two armed men riding tandem on a motorcycle opened fire at him, prompting the army soldier to shoot back. But policemen manning a checkpoint near the bridge heard the gunshots, thought they were under attack, opened fire on the soldier.

The motorcycle-riding gunmen fled after the shooting. The motive of the attack was not immediately known.

“This triggered the exchange of fire that resulted to the death of Pfc. Ahamad and a policeman and three other people,” Dominguez said.


Casimiro said the four remaining captives were identified as Laja Omar, 19; Habir Rassan,18; Faizal Hussin, 19, and Isah Indanan, 24.

“We have forces sent to rescue the hostages,” he said, but did not give details of the operation.

However, he said Friday that army commandoes were tracking down the gunmen, believed to be Abu Sayyaf members.

Those freed by gunmen said they were threatened with harm, Casimiro said.

“The gunmen took their belongings and money and the hostages just pleaded for their lives and that’s why everybody, but four, had been released unharmed,” he said.

“The four remaining captives were being used as shield against pursuing police forces,” he added.

Casimiro said latest police reports yesterday indicated the gunmen were still holding the vessel in Maimbung town. “These could be remnants of the Abu Sayyaf from Basilan province who fled to Sulu because of the ongoing military operation against the rebels in the province,” Casimiro said.


Narcise said the gang were apparently out to avenge the death of comrades killed last month in a clash with a Tapiantana militia.

Police said the abductors were likely members of Abu Sayyaf, an extremist Muslim group that rose to infamy last year when it took foreign tourists hostage.

On April 24, a Tapiantana militia waged a two-hour firefight with Abu Sayyaf members, leaving 19 dead, the military said. It was not clear how many fighters each side lost.

“These people who captured the boat owner apparently have some kind of feud with Tapiantana residents,” Narcise said.

He said the military is searching for the remaining hostages.

The area is one of the most violent in the Philippines, plagued by gun proliferation and shootouts.

The Abu Sayyaf, which says it is fighting to carve a separate Islamic state out of the area, darts between the remote, jungle-covered islands to attack the military and hide hostages. Militia patrol many of the villages.


The abduction took place Thursday afternoon but was reported only late Friday because the captured boat, like most of the transport plying the tiny islands in the area, had no radio or navigation equipment.

On Tuesday, dozens of gunmen armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers, tried to storm a tourist resort in the southern Mindanao region. Security guards fought them off but two resort workers were killed and three security guards were injured.

Investigators originally said they suspected Abu Sayyaf members but Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon claimed they were mere pirates trying to capture a speedboat that services the holiday island.

A little more than a year ago, the Abu Sayyaf raided a Malaysian tourist resort and took 10 foreign tourists hostage. They also took other hostages in a series of incidents in the southern Philippines. All the hostages have since been freed, some reportedly for large ransoms.

In early April, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered “all-out war” on the Abu Sayyaf and the military attacked with artillery, infantry and helicopters. Military officials said the Abu Sayyaf has regrouped in the last two weeks as the military was called off to guard voting in May 14 midterm elections.

--AP and Jeannette Andrade, Reporter


May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, 20 abducted as raiders attack Palawan resort, by Ruffy Villanueva and Cecille S. Visto,

Less than a week after the Pearl Farm resort in Samal island in southern Mindanao was raided in what authorities say was a botched robbery attempt, armed men yesterday attacked the Dos Palmas resort in Puerto Princesa, south of Metro Manila, taking 20 people hostage.

Reports from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said 16 tourists--13 Filipinos, two Americans, and a Spaniard--were abducted by armed men at around 5:30 in the morning. Four Filipino resort workers were also seized from the resort at Honda Bay island, famed for its scuba diving.

The local tourists were identified as Janice Ting Go, Luis Bautista III, Laline Chua, Kimberly Jao, Letty Jao, Luis Recio, RJ Recio, Angie Montealegre, Divine Montealegre, Francis Ganzon, Teresa Ganzon, and Maria Riza Santos. Businessman Reghis Romero was also identified as among those seized but his family claimed he is abroad.

The American hostages were identified as Martin and Gracia Burnham while the lone Spanish hostage was identified as Guillermo Sobero. Resort workers Maria Fe Rosadeno, Sonny Dacoler, Armando Bayona and Eldren Morales were also kidnapped. Chief inspector Noli Romana, PNP spokesman, admitted authorities still do not know who the kidnappers are and the motives behind the abduction.

He said the PNP is looking at the possible involvement of "breakaway groups" from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as the extremist Abu Sayyaf, since initial investigations said the abductors spoke Tausug--a local dialect used in Mindanao.

The AFP's Western Command based in Puerto Princesa said it dispatched two gunboats and an aircraft shortly after the abduction occurred in a bid to intercept the kidnappers. For his part, National Security adviser Roilo Golez said there are reports that the motorboat believed to be carrying the abductors and their hostages was sighted near Bugsuk town at the southern tip of Palawan. There are also reports that the motorboat was spotted near Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi island between Palawan and Tawi-Tawi in western Mindanao. He stressed that these sightings are still unconfirmed. Last year, Tausug-speaking Abu Sayyaf rebels abducted 20 hostages from a Sipadan island in Malaysia. All but one have been released after ransom was paid.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, meanwhile, yesterday ordered the conduct of pursuit operations against the kidnappers. Presidential Spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao said Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo condemned the "dastardly criminal act", stressing there will neither be negotiations nor ransom paid.

"The President condemns this dastardly criminal act of desperate, ruthless bandits. They seemed to have taken advantage of the fact that police and military forces have been deployed to ensure that election-related violence will be reduced and to ensure that votes are properly counted," Mr. Tiglao told Palace reporters.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said authorities "swiftly" mobilized all available units of the Western Command, adding that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration does not want the incident to drag on like last year's Sipadan raid.

While no specific group has been pinpointed as responsible for yesterday's kidnapping, Mr. Adan said it could be a faction of the Abu Sayyaf. "This could be splinter terrorist group whose appetites were whetted because of the last year's ransom payments. That's why the government is reiterating its no ransom policy." The Malaysian government has been alerted on the possible intrusion of the kidnappers into its territory. Mr. Adan said the government expects to "have contact" with the kidnappers soon.


May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Americans kidnapped Former TIMES owner among 21 hostages,

Americans kidnapped Former TIMES owner among 21 hostages Codes: N7 DJ Author: Marian Trinidad, Maritess Fernandez Source: Manila Times Date Published: 05/28/01 Starting Page: internet edition TAUSUG-SPEAKING gunmen abducted about 21 people, including three Americans and wealthy Chinese-Filipinos, from an upscale resort in Palawan early morning yesterday, the country's military chief said. Also among the hostages is Reghis M. Romero, former majority shareholder of THE MANILA TIMES and owner of R-2 Builders, a construction firm.

Camp Crame officials listed Romero's address as 135 Malakas St., Diliman, Quezon City. A Times official confirmed it was the former Manila Times officers' address. Malacañang, however, would neither confirm nor deny that the kidnapped Romero was the former TIMES owner.

"We cannot confirm at this point the identity of Mr. Romero and we appeal to the media that we don't disclose the background of each of the Filipino hostages," Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao said.


Officials suspect the abductors are Abu Sayyaf bandits operating in Tawi- Tawi and Sulu. Twenty armed men stormed the Dos Palmas Island Resort in Honda Bay around 5:30 a.m., using a "kumpit," an oversized, fast motorboat. Resort spokesman, Alian Pavia, quoted staff and security as saying the raiders spoke Tausug, the dialect of island provinces where the Abu Sayyaf is based.

"It happened so fast, they were able to get into the cottages," Pavia told ABS-CBN. He said most of the hostages were tourists staying at the more expensive bay cottages, some 100 meters from the mainland resort. The resort, opened in 1998, has about 50 hotel rooms and seaside cottages— some built on stilts in a bay—and offers diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and sightseeing tours.

The resort's Internet site had rates listed at $140 to $240 for a two-night stay, fairly expensive for the Philippines. The guests were believed to include 13 Chinese Filipinos, at least two Americans and a still unidentified three-year-old girl, reportedly a child of a hostaged couple.


The Americans were identified as Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries from Wichita, Kansas, who have lived in the Philippines since around 1986 and have been working for the New Tribes Mission, said Tim Grossman, who was at the organization's Manila office yesterday. They had flown to the resort on Saturday.

Martin has spent most of his life in the Philippines, Grossman said, and the couple—both children of missionaries—had been living in Nueva Vizcaya. He said mission members heard of the abduction while at church. Southern Tagalog police director Chief Supt. Domingo also identified the third foreigner as Guillermo Sobero, a Spanish-American, of 4045 Moddy St., Corona, USA.

The other hostages are Janice Tingo Go, of Makati City; Luis Bautista, of GT Plaza, Mandaluyong City; Luis Raul de Guzman Recio, Angie Montealegre, Divine Montealegre and RJ Recio of Suite 520, 105 Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati;

Lalaine Chua, Kimberly Jao, Letty Jao; Francis and Teresa Ganzon of 311 Ipil St., United Parañaque; Maria Riza Rodriguez of 1180 E. Rodriguez St., Doña Hemady, New Manila, Quezon City; Ma. Fe Rosendo of Dagomboy Village, Puerto Princesa; resort staff Sonny Dacquer and security officer Armando Bayona and Eldren Moralez.


Fisherman Salvador Aton told local radio that he saw the abductors and their hostages aboard a vessel known as a "kumpit" traveling toward the southern Mindanao region. "There were armed men in ski masks surrounding a group of people. I waved at them but they did not respond," Aton claimed.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said a military surveillance plane spotted what looked like the boat apparently heading toward Malaysia. He said a joint military patrol at the sea border could block the abductors, but he refused to divulge what the military planned to do if they confirm the boat actually contained the abductors and their hostages. The armed forces said it has deployed planes and navy ships in a massive search for the abductors and their captives in Mindanao's high seas, many areas of which have long been plagued by Muslim separatists, pirates and other outlaws.

"Obviously we'll be very concerned if there were Americans among those abducted," said Michael Anderson of the US Embassy. US security personnel were to hold an emergency meeting, he said. Anderson said they have heard reports that up to three Americans, including a couple, may have been among those abducted, but he was confirming this with local authorities.

"Don't worry. We're doing everything we can to get them," said Capt. Djo Jalandoni, with the military's western command. Jalandoni said the abductors might have been headed to Jolo Island, the base of Abu Sayyaf bandits, some of whom fled to nearby Tawi-Tawi at height of a military assault on their Jolo lairs last year and last April.

Navy ships and aircraft conducted simultaneous searches throughout Sunday. But the officials said they were cruising several times faster than ordinary patrol boat. The Philippines informed Kuala Lumpur about the abduction and urged the Malaysian Royal Navy to step up border patrols to prevent the gunmen from fleeing to Sabah.

"There is military movement on the border. And there is a close coordination between our armed forces and that of the Malaysian military," said a senior military official, speaking on condition of anonymity.


The raid at Dos Palmas came barely five days after an attack in the Pearl Farm resort, Samal, Davao del Norte. Dozens of gunmen armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers stormed the resort but security guards fought them off. Two resort workers were killed and three security guards were injured.

Investigators originally suspected Abu Sayyaf, but Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon later said the gunmen were pirates trying to capture a speedboat. On Thursday, armed men also abducted a ferry with 42 people on board elsewhere in the southern Philippines, later releasing the passengers but keeping four sailors in apparent revenge against a local militia, the military said. Police said the abductors were likely members of Abu Sayyaf, which took foreign tourists hostage last year. The group says it is fighting to carve a separate Islamic state out of the area.

A little more than a year ago, the Abu Sayyaf raided a Malaysian tourist resort and took 10 foreign tourists hostage. They also took other hostages in a series of incidents in the southern Philippines. All the hostages have since been freed—including American Jeffrey Schilling—some reportedly for large ransoms. President Arroyo ordered an "all-out war" on Abu Sayyaf in early April, but military officials said it has regrouped in the last two weeks. --With AP
May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, KL sends patrol ships, planes to border,

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines MH Arshad Sunday afternoon announced that his country had sent patrol ships and planes to its border to stop suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels from taking refuge in Sabah.

"Several vessels from the Royal Malaysian Navy and airplanes were patrolling the border to prevent lawless groups from seeking refuge against pursuing Philippine troops," Arshad said.

The envoy stressed: "Malaysia is not a safe haven for terrorists and Malaysian authorities have beefed-up security patrol in the Sabah border. We wish to announce that Malaysia has activated the Joint Border Patrol Committee with the Philippines."

The Malaysian official said Kuala Lumpur is helping the Philippines fight terrorism by providing information to the Philippines about the security situation at the border.

"The Malaysian government is constantly exchanging information with the Philippines and we will continue helping the (Philippine) government guard the border against terrorists and other lawless groups," he said by phone from Manila.

In Sulu, police forces raided early Sunday a suspected Abu Sayyaf hideout of the group believed to be holding four passengers of a small boat hijacked off Basilan province, the provincial police chief Candido Casimiro said.

The military’s chief of civil office Col. Fredesvindo Covarrubias said troops were tracking down the gunmen in Sulu province and that soldiers were ordered to rescue the remaining hostages.

"Efforts to neutralize the lawless elements and to rescue the remaining hostages were ongoing and we have been receiving information about them from local villagers," he said.

Casimiro said policemen raided a rebel encampment and briefly clashed with a small group of gunmen.

There were no reports of casualties on both sides, he said.

Guerrillas seized a small vessel Thursday afternoon off Basilan's Maluso town and held hostage 34 passengers, but freed at least 30 people in the coastal town of Maimbung, police said.

"We were tracking down the four hostages in Maimbung (town) when policemen spotted the rebels and a firefight ensued," Casimiro said, adding, the gunmen retreated toward the hills.

He said: “There were no traces of the hostages."

He identified the four remaining hostages as Laja Omar, 27; Habir Rassan, 18; Faizal Hussin, 19, and Isah Indanan.

May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, AFP ops vs Reds go on despite peace talks, by Mary Joyce C. Osmeña,
 Visayas News Bureau

THE Visayas Command (Viscom) has been conducting military operations against communist rebels in Cebu and other parts of the Visayas despite the peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and despite suggestions by top police officials here against it.

Viscom spokesman Maj. Michael Manquiquis told THE MANILA TIMES yesterday that unless the command receives a directive from the national government to the contrary, military operations against communist rebels will continue.

"As of the moment, we are guided by a directive to continue military operations. And these operations will continue until the national government, through the peace panel, will direct us to stop," said Manquiquis.

Contrary to Viscom’s stand the Philippine National Police hierarchy in the region believes that operations against the insurgents have to be temporarily stopped in support of the peace talks being initiated by the national government.

PNP regional director, Chief Supt. Avelino Razon, has directed all police commanders in the province, city, and municipal levels to stop the offensives. He ordered cops instead to initiate "activities that can foster better relationships with our brothers and sisters in the underground movement."

"This is in line with the peace process. We have been doing this long ago. As much as possible, we don’t want to fight them with guns," the PNP regional director said.

Razon said he issued the order on suggestion by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Antonio Oppus Jr.

Among the suggestions received by Razon from the PNP field commanders so far include the stoppage of military operations against the insurgents and the holding of dialogs and discussion with rebels and their supporters.

However, Manquiquis insisted he will take his cue only from the military national headquarters.

Both communist and government negotiators are optimistic that discussions of crucial issues, like socio-economic reforms and human rights, would lead to a final settlement and a halt to Asia’s longest-running homegrown insurgency.

But rebels stepped up ambuscades during the recent electoral season, killing 25 of the 198 persons slain in poll-related violence. Among those executed by guerrillas were powerful local politicians from President Arroyo's ruling coalition, including Quezon Representative Marcial Punzalan.

Government officials have said the killings would not derail ongoing peace talks.

May 28, 2001, The Manila Times, Palace rules out talks with bandits, Joel R. San Juan, Artemio Dumlao,

PRESIDENT Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday ordered the armed forces to ensure the immediate release of the 21 Filipino and foreign tourists abducted from a resort in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, as she maintained that the government would not pay any ransom or entertain any demand from the kidnappers.

Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo, likewise, ordered the military to secure all tourist spots in the Visayas and southern islands of the Philippines to prevent similar kidnapping incidents, acknowledging that the series of raids in little more than a week have done great damage to the government’s efforts to promote tourism.

In Baguio City, Sen. Loren Legarda-Leviste expressed fears that the new hostage-taking incident could further erode the country’s image in the international community.

Legarda and Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon expressed hope that local and foreign media would not sensationalize the new rash of abductions.

The senator urged the government to crush the kidnappers but also cited the need to safeguard the hostages.

Gordon said it is important to throw a protective cover around the country’s top tourism drawers.

Personal supervision

At a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Rigoberto Tiglao said Mrs. Arroyo ordered AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedia Villanueva to personally supervise the pursuit operation against the bandits.

“The President condemns this dastardly criminal act of desperate, ruthless, bandits. They seemed to have taken advantage of the fact that police and military forces have been deployed to ensure that election-related violence will be reduced and to ensure that votes are properly counted,” Tiglao said.

Tiglao added that the Chief Executive also assured the families of the hostages that the government will do everything within its powers to ensure the safe rescue of their loved ones.

Because of the incident, the President is also likely to excuse herself from attending the much-talked wedding today of movie personalities Charlene Gonzales and Aga Muhlach at St. Joseph the Worker Church, Baguio City.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan told Malacañang reporters Villanueva is now in the area to supervise the operations of the AFP Western Command.

Tiglao said Malacañang has yet to receive the reaction from the United States government.

'Generic' terrorists

Adan said officials could not pin blame yet on the Abu Sayyaf.

"The Abu Sayyaf term has been loosely used latterly because of the Sipadan Island hostage incident last year,” he pointed out.

“The Abu Sayyaf has become generic…So we cannot say this is Abu Sayyaf, this could be splinter terrorist groups whose appetite were whetted because of the last year’s ransom payments,” he added.

"That’s why the government is reiterating its no-ransom policy because it simply encourages other lawless groups to take advantage of that situation,” Adan stressed.

Adan also maintained that the Palawan kidnapping was not connected to the Davao Pearl Farm and Basilan incident.

National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the involvement of the Abu Sayyaf in the said kidnapping was remote since Palawan is too far from where the group is based.

"Any group could be pinpointed at this time, but our main description of the group responsible to the abduction is armed bandits. The area is too far for the Abu Sayyaf to be immediately considered," Golez added.


Tiglao said the Malaysian government had also stepped up its border patrol after the Philippine government informed them of the possibility that the kidnappers would try to enter in their territory.

“The Malaysian authorities had been notified and the Malaysian navy is now stepping up its border patrol,” he said.

Adan said a joint task force of the Philippine Navy, the army and the air force, including elements from outside the Western Command, has been mobilized to track down the kidnappers and their hostages.

"The most important thing here in this type of operation is to be able to detect the craft, the transportation used. This is easily done by air, so we have to do this while there is still daylight and the most important aircraft that we could use here are the helicopters and the fixed wing rotary aircraft the air force has in its inventory," Adan noted.


Gordon cautioned the press to be extra sensitive when reporting about the Philippines in the international community.

Legarda echoed the appeal, saying: "Let us make the international community that what is happening in an area like in that kidnapping scenario will not necessarily affect the rest of the country."

She asked the police and the military to be stricter and improve intelligence gathering efforts to thwart future assaults.

The PNP should really beef up their intelligence operations, she stressed.

Legarda is a member of the Senate defense committee.

May 29, 2001, The Manila Times, Sayyaf owns resort kidnaps, by Jeannette Andrade

THE extremist Muslim group Abu Sayyaf that kidnapped foreign tourists last year claimed responsibility yesterday for the Sunday abduction of 20 people from an upscale resort in Palawan.

Abu Sabaya, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf, told a radio interview that the hostages had been divided into two groups and taken to different islands.

"We have the three Americans," Sabaya said. "If you want to negotiate, it's up to you, we're not pushing for it."

Martin Burnham, one of the three Americans, also went on radio RMN from Zamboanga City to offer assurances to relatives.

"We are safe and we are appealing for a peaceful negotiations," Burnham said. "They are treating us well."

Luis Raul de Guzman Recio, another hostage, added: "I hope the government will think and not to be too hasty in their rescue efforts."

Abu Sabaya, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf separatists—who last year kidnapped another group of foreign tourists—told the station that the hostages had been divided into two groups of 10.

One, which he supervises, includes the Americans and has been taken to Basilan province; the other has been handed over to another Abu Sayyaf faction and taken to Sulu province.

"I do not want to comment. Mahirap makipag-initan sa gobyerno. Bahala na kayong mag-isip. Alam na ninyo ang daing namin. (It's difficult to clash with government. It is up to you to think about our motive. You already know what we've been asking for)," Sabaya said when asked why the new raid.

He made no specific demands but issued what appeared to be a threat to harm the captives.

Referring to Jeffrey Schilling, a Muslim convert from Oakland, California, who was held by Abu Sayyaf for eight months before the military freed him last month, Sabaya said: "What I can say is we should not compare Jeffrey because Jeffrey is a Muslim, so we hesitated to hurt him. Now, we have three Americans. It is hard for us to be shamed."

First contact

It was the first contact with the kidnappers and their hostages since the daring Sunday dawn raid on the Dos Palmas Arrecetti Island Resort at Honda Bay, Puerto Princesa City, by two-dozen armed men.

The military had launched an air and sea search that had yielded several suspected sightings, including one late Sunday that indicated the raiders had abandoned their escape boat and split up into three vessels.

Col. Danilo Servando, spokesman for the military's southern command, said the boats took evasive maneuvers when a pair of Nomad surveillance planes approached.

It appeared that the kidnappers slipped through the cordon under the cover of darkness, when the military suspended the air search in Mindanao.

Armed forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan vowed that the military will track down the captors and their victims.

"There will be no negotiations," Adan said. "Once we pinpoint their area, we will cordon it, then launch an assault, but with the safety of the hostages in consideration."

Rigoberto Tiglao, spokesman for President Arroyo, said the government—which has offered a P1-million reward—was willing to talk with the kidnappers but reiterated no ransom would be paid.

Sabaya claimed he led Sunday's raid. Referring to three resort cooks who were kicked off the escape boat because it was overloaded, he said: "We did not take them because they were just small fish."

The Abu Sayyaf group seized 10 foreign tourists 13 months ago from a Malaysian resort. Most were released for large ransoms, reportedly paid by Libya.

Former hostage Seppo Franti of Finland, a therapist in the children's department of a Helsinki hospital, expressed hopes that "I feel sorry that innocent people are suffering again," Franti said in a statement to The Associated Press. "They should not suffer like us because our ordeal took too long. They should be released as soon as possible, and the safety of the hostages is the most important thing."

President Arroyo ordered "all-out war" on Abu Sayyaf in early April, but military officials said the separatist organization has re-grouped in the last two weeks.

Dressed in military uniforms to fool security guards, the men ransacked the resort's white cottages on stilts in the pristine blue waters and rounding up terrified guests and resort workers.

Resort spokesman Alan Fabian told dzMM radio that while no shots were fired, some of the captives, who include three Americans, were roughed up during the well-coordinated assault that was over in 20 minutes.

Hostages' safety

There were concerns for the hostages' safety if a showdown developed, said Tiglao. He vowed there would be no negotiations or ransom.

The Burnhams are missionaries from Wichita, Kansas, who have lived in the Philippines since 1986 and have been working for the New Tribes Mission of Sanford, Florida.

The couple flew to the resort on Saturday for their 18th wedding anniversary. Their three children—Jeffrey, 14, Melinda, 11, and Zachary, 10—are also in the Philippines.

The other American was identified as Guillermo Sobero, of Corona, California, who was to mark his 40th birthday on Tuesday.

Southern Tagalog police director Chief Supt. Domingo identified the other hostages as Janice Tingo Go, of Makati City; Luis Bautista, of GT Plaza, Mandaluyong City; Luis Raul de Guzman Recio, Angie Montealegre, Divine Montealegre and RJ Recio of Suite 520, 105 Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati; Lalaine Chua, Kimberly Jao, Letty Jao; Francis and Teresa Ganzon of 311 Ipil St., United Parañaque; Maria Riza Rodriguez of 1180 E. Rodriguez St., Doña Hemady, New Manila, Quezon City; Ma. Fe Rosendo of Dagomboy Village, Puerto Princesa; resort staff Sonny Dacquer and security officer Armando Bayona and Eldren Morales.


Adan said earlier Sunday’s kidnappings appear to be unconnected to two attacks last week.

On Thursday, armed men abducted a ferry carrying 42 people, later releasing the passengers but keeping four sailors. Police said the abductors were likely members of Abu Sayyaf.

On Tuesday, dozens of gunmen tried to storm the Pearl Farm resort on Samal Island, killing two workers.

Sabaya did not own up to the Samal raid, but a military officer speculated the attack on the Pearl Farm resort was but a diversionary tactic by the Abu Sayyaf to clear the way for the attack on the Palawan resort.

Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes offered a reward of P1 million for information leading to the release of the hostages in Sunday’s raid.
With AP

May 31, 2001, Manila Times, Gov’t backtracks on vigilantes vs Abus, by Ma. Theresa Torres, Joel San Juan, Johnna Villaviray and Macon Ramos-Araneta, Reporters,

Malacañang yesterday backtracked from the reported plan to utilize vigilante groups in efforts to rescue 20 hostages seized Sunday in a Palawan resort and three fishermen abducted the day after.

Government officials also expanded the news blackout on rescue efforts to include foreign media.

Justice Secretary Hernando Perez said the Armed Forces erred in seeking the help of vigilante groups, which are mostly based in Mindanao.

“The use of vigilante groups in solving the hostage crisis is an indication that the peace officers cannot act by themselves,” Perez said.

However, he did not totally rule out the deployment of vigilantes but said there was need to formally deputize them as peace officers.

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao clarified that President Arroyo would not condone or encourage vigilantism just to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf.

A church-based human rights organization warned President Arroyo against using civilians as “cannon fodder.”

Dani Beltran, secretary general of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) said they support the government’s call to wipe out the bandits but are adverse to the use of civilians as support personnel of the military.

Citizens’ arrest

Tiglao said Armed Forces Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan cleared that he never used the word vigilantes during a briefing with mediamen.

“I would like to clarify that this administration does not condone and encourage vigilantes. I talked to Gen. Adan himself and he explained that he never used the word vigilantes. What he explained was that the military will not stop law-abiding citizens with properly authorized firearms from making citizens against the terrorists,” Tiglao said.

Contrary to Tiglao’s statement, Mrs. Arroyo, at a press briefing the other day, answered “yes” when asked if she was amenable to the AFP’s plan to deploy vigilante groups against the Abu Sayyaf.

Tiglao said Adan’s statement was meant to encourage all citizens to help the government by providing information that could lead to the arrest of the Abu Sayyaf terrorists.

“And whatever help these citizens would be offering all these would be done under the strict coordination and supervision of the military or the Philippine National Police,” Tiglao stressed.

Foreign media

Mrs. Arroyo and representatives of local media organizations agreed to a news blackout Tuesday night. Yesterday, Malacañang said it is restricting foreign media coverage of the bandit group’s latest exploit.

Vice President Teofisto Guingona said instructions have been given to the country’s missions abroad to request media agencies to restrict their coverage of the abduction from a safe distance.

He noted it would be safer for foreigners to cover the event either from Manila or Zamboanga where their security is easier to assure.

“We have to learn from experience…Media people, with all their good intentions, become the victims of these bandits,’’ Guingona told reporters.

Several foreign and local reporters were taken hostage themselves while covering the Abu Sayyaf’s abduction of 21 people from Sipadan Island last year. One German reporter was even kidnapped twice by the group.

Guingona noted there is nothing to gain in sensationalizing the Abu Sayyaf’s activities.

“These bandits are emboldened by the publicity they are getting,’’ he said.

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