MANILA, Philippines – Although kidnappers of 54-year-old Australian Warren Richard Rodwell had agreed to release him Thursday, March 21, it was not until early Saturday morning that he was actually freed.
Rappler gathered from military intelligence sources that by Thursday night, “negotiations” for his release were over and that he was supposed to be handed over to a local official in Barangay Cabangalan in the municipality of Tipo Tipo, Basilan.
But this did not happen because, according to sources, some local officials and middlemen seemed to have taken part of the ransom.
Days after the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Rodwell from his home in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur on Dec 5, 2011, they set an initial P1-million ransom demand. But By January 2012, they upped this to US$2-M.
On Thursday, March 21, sources told Rappler that Rodwell’s kidnappers had agreed to release him for P5 million. But it seems that when the money reached the kidnappers, it was down to only P1.5 million. This scuttled the agreement to release Rodwell, according to military and police sources.
Whoever paid the ransom agreed to pay more money. This reportedly facilitated Rodwell’s release at past 1:00 am of Saturday, March 23.
Officials have not publicly spoken about ransom payment. At least 6 other foreign hostages are still in the hands of kidnappers in Mindanao — one Japanese, one Swiss, one Dutch, one Jordanian and 2 Malaysians. A third Malaysian was released by kidnappers this month.
Last Feb 2, 2013, kidnappers released the 2 Filipino TV crew of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network. The ASG released Atyani’s cameraman Ramil Vela and audio technician Roland “Buboy” Letrero on Jolo island; but Atyani remains in captivity. The 3 were kidnapped in June 2012.
Kidnap-for-ransom has become a cottage industry for the Abu Sayyaf, a group once funded and supported by al-Qaeda in the early 1990s. – With reports from Glenda Gloria and Maria Ressa/Rappler.com