Aquino: New group likely behind Samal kidnapping

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Benigno Aquino III revealed that a new rebel group might be behind the abduction of 3 foreigners and one Filipina in Samal Island in Davao Del Norte.

Aquino said initial investigations point to this conclusion.

“At mukhang sa initial na mga report sa atin parang bagong grupo, ano. Siyempre, mag-a-account ulit ang ating intelligence services, ano. Bakit nawala sa radar ito? O baka naman talagang bagong-bagong buo itong grupong ito. Hindi natin alam eh. Pati ‘yung motivation hindi pa rin ganoon kaklaro. Ano ba itong pakay nila sa pagki-kidnap?” Aquino told reporters on Wednesday, September 23.

(It looks like based on initial reports to us that this is a new group. Of course, our intelligence services will still have to account for this. Why was this not in their radar? Or maybe this is a really newly formed group. We don't know. Even the motivation is still unclear. What is their motivation to kidnap these people?)

The President refused to divulge details of the operation to rescue the victims. After all, he said, this would give undue advantage to the kidnappers.

He, however, assured the public that rescue operations are ongoing and that the security sector is continuously on the hunt for the suspects.

“Basta asahan po ninyo na hindi tumitigil ang ating security sector ng pagtugis dito sa mga taong ito at pagkatapos nito…At ngayon pa lang siguro, ano, nagkakaroon na ng review paano nangyari ito. As usual, hindi ko puwedeng sabihin sa inyo ‘yung ongoing operations in detail. Baka naman malapit na nating matukoy, ‘pag bibigyan ko naman ng clue ‘yung mga kumidnap sa kanila baka biglang lumipat ng puwesto,” Aquino said.

(You can all be assured that the security sector will not pursuing the suspects. As early as now, there is already an ongoing review of why this happened. As usual, I cannot tell you the details of the ongoing operations. We might be close to finding them, and If I give clues, they might shift locations.)

Police identified the victims as Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkinstad, 56; Canadian guests John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50; and the latter's Filipina girlfriend only identified as "Tess." (READ: 3 foreigners, 1 Filipina abducted in Samal Island)

Philippine National Police Region 11 authorities said on Tuesday, September 22, that 11 armed men stormed the Holiday Oceanview Resort at around 11:23 pm on Monday, September 21, and forcibly took the 4 victims with them.

Samal Island, known as the "Island Garden City," experienced a similar incident in 2001.

At midnight of May 22, 2001, members of the Abu Sayyaf group attacked Pearl Farm, also on Samal Island. They killed two employees and hurt 3 others, but were unable to take hostages.

Cartographic sketch

Philippine National Police (PNP) Region 11 officials released the cartographic sketch of one of the suspects on Wednesay, but said the group behind the abduction has yet to be identified.

PNP Region 11 director Chief Superintendent Wendy Rosario said that based on the initial investigation, the "signature" of the abductors does not point to the Abu Sayyaf group and their affiliate organizations, though authorities are studying all possibilities.

"Hindi naman gumagamit ang ASG ng (The ASG does not use) motorized boats and the way they moved, hindi ganoon ang (that's not the) signature ng Abu Sayyaf but we are not discounting any group," Rosario said.

He said the suspects left a note offshore, saying, "Katarungan ng Aming Kumander by: NPA (Justice of our Commander by: NPA)."

Rosario said, however, that the communist New People's Army would immediately claim responsibility for their actions a day after the incident, but it had not done so in the case of the Samal abduction.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte shared the view, saying on Wednesday: "When did the NPA used motorized boats to abduct? I guess it is a diversionary tactic."

Force Oceanview Commander Police Superintendent Percival Dulay said every group is being counted as a suspect, and that all units in the region and neighboring area have been alerted about the pursuit operations.

Rappler sources said kidnap victim Ridsdel is involved in mining in Siocon, Zamboanga Peninsula. He was a former president of TVI Minerals Processing, Incorporated and was the senior vice president and chief operating officer of TVI Resource Development, an affiliate of TVI Pacific based in Canada.

Ridsdel was a journalist at CBC Alberta, and a former reporter at the Calgary Herald.

Hall is a geologist. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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