Kidnappers free Chinese tourist in Cotabato


PIKIT, North Cotabato — Armed men released on Sunday a Chinese tourist they held captive for five days.

Governor Jesus Sacdalan said rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front helped convince the captors of Afen Ma, 24, to free her without ransom.

“No ransom (was) paid the kidnappers. Not a single centavo. It’s purely a way of showing their sincerity to help us,” Sacdalan said.

Sacdalan said police investigators will accompany the victim to Davao City, where the victim’s family was waiting.

“She can’t speak English. Our policemen will go with her, along with local officials in Davao City, to get her account of the kidnapping,” Sacdalan said.

Kabacan town mayor George Tan said Ma was released around 8 a.m. in the marshy area of Rajamudah village.

“We are thankful that she (Ma) was released through negotiation made by the local MILF,” Tan said.

“I thank the soldiers for trusting us. We don’t want people being displaced again once the military launch an operation against the kidnappers,” he added.

Ma, a 24-year-old Chinese citizen from China’s southeastern province of Fujian, arrived in the Philippines with her husband about five months ago. Her brother-in-law runs a small department store in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Tan’s wife, Luz, also a former mayor who acted as negotiator, stressed that there was no ransom paid to the captors in exchange for the freedom of the foreigner.

“We really begged with the kidnappers to release her because we don’t want fighting to erupt again in the region. They listened to us,” she said.

“The victim was not hurt, except for the small bruises in her legs and hands, and some mosquito bites,” she added.

The military identified Mayangkang Saguile as behind Ma’s abduction.

Colonel Domingo Gobway, commander of 7th Infantry Battalion, said pursuit operation would continue in an effort to get the kidnappers’ leader.

Saguile, a sub-commander of Pentagon gang, was charged for his participation in the kidnapping of Filipino-Chinese hotelier Wilson Tan and his daughter Jennifer, 10, earlier this year. The Tans were freed four days later after ransom was paid.

The Pentagon, blamed for at least 50 kidnapping cases in Mindanao, first gained notoriety on October 17, 2001, when it abducted Italian priest Guissepe Pierrantoni while he was officiating a mass in Dimatali town, Zamboanga Del Sur.

Pierrantoni was released on April 8, 2002, after six months in captivity.

The Pentagon was also said to be behind the abduction of five Chinese engineers working on an irrigation project in Carmen, North Cotabato.

Four of the Chinese engineers were killed during a botched military operation.