MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines identified on Friday, April 4, the Filipina kidnapped in Sabah by abductors believed to be from the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
In a brief statement, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine embassy in Malaysia confirmed that the abducted Filipina is Marcelita M Dayawan, 40 years old. She is a staff member of the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna in Sabah, where the abduction took place on Wednesday, April 2.
Dayawan was abducted along with Gao Huayun, a 29-year-old Chinese tourist from Shanghai, China, between 10:30 and 11 pm on Wednesday.
The DFA said the Philippine ambassador to Malaysia, J. Eduardo Malaya, has sent an embassy official to Sabah. This official then met with the police in Semporna.
Embassy officials have been coordinating with and assisting Dayawan’s family, the DFA said.
Philippine and Malaysian officials “are closely and actively working together towards the speedy resolution of the case,” it added.
“We continue to hope and pray for the immediate resolution of this incident and the safe return of the victims to their families,” the DFA said.
PH soldiers deployed
Armed Forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told Agence-France-Presse that the Abu Sayyaf are the prime suspects for the abductions, and that Philippine soldiers have been deployed to a remote island in the southern Philippines where the hostages were believed to have been taken.
“What is important is to… block them (from fleeing) and find them,” Zagala said, adding that an undisclosed number of naval forces, including marines, had been sent to one of the islands.
Zagala said the hostages are believed to have been taken to Simunul, a majority-Muslim town of about 35,000 people living on two tiny islands more than 1,000 kilometers from Manila.
Simunul is about 145 kilometers from the resort where the two were kidnapped, or about a day’s boat ride.
Zagala said the kidnappers were believed to be affiliated with Abu Sayyaf “sub-commander” Murphy Ambang Ladjia, who was involved in a spectacular kidnapping of 21 people from another Sabah resort in 2000.
Twenty of those hostages – many of whom were Europeans and other foreign tourists – were released within five months, reportedly after hefty ransoms were paid. A final Filipino captive was held until 2003.
The Abu Sayyaf has only a few hundred gunmen but has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, including bombings and kidnappings that have often targeted foreigners or Christians.
It was set up in the 1990s, reportedly with seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Its militants have defied US-backed military campaigns against it by melding into and drawing support from Muslim communities in the southern Philippines who feel they have been persecuted for centuries by Christian rulers in Manila.
The group’s strongholds are Tawi-Tawi and the neighboring Philippine islands of Sulu and Basilan.
Last year, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped a Taiwanese couple holidaying in a Sabah resort. The husband was killed during the abduction. His wife was found alive a month later on the main Sulu island of Jolo.
The Abu Sayyaf are believed to still be holding other foreign hostages, including two European bird-watchers abducted in the Tawi-Tawis in February 2012. – Paterno Esmaquel II, Agence-France-Presse/Rappler.com