Let us handle it, says family of kidnapped filmmakers



DAVAO CITY, Philippines - The family of kidnapped Moro sisters and filmmakers Linda and Nadjoua Bansil said on Monday, June 24, they want to be allowed to handle the negotiations for their immediate release.

The appeal was relayed to the non-government Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon), which issued a statement Monday. They said they would rather not divulge further information on the two to ensure their safety.

Linda and Nadjoua Bansil were taken away by armed men last Saturday in Liang, Patikul.

The family said they are worried over initial media reports that described the sisters as Filipino-Algerian. Mohammed Bansil, brother of the kidnapped, requested that his sisters be identified as FIlipinos. After all, their late father was a Filipino, Bansil added. Their mother is Moroccan-Algerian.

Being identified as Fil-Algerian presents "unwarranted impression of wealth" to the prejudice of the sisters, he said.

Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam

The sisters, who are working on a film about coffee growers in Mindanao, were accompanied in Sulu by members of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SDDI).

Len Manriquez, chief of Pecojon, said she immediately dialed Nadjoua's phone number when she heard about the abduction. It was Yasir Rajim of the SSDI who picked up the call, Manriquez said.

“On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI). On Friday morning they went to Sinumaan stayed overnight in the area to take some shots of the sunrise. On Saturday they started to take off to Jolo, at about 10a.m., they were kidnapped in Liang, Patikul. They were on board a jeepney and the road was blocked by armed men," Manriquez quoted Rajim as saying.

Manriquez said Rajim explained that they were not able to stop the kidnappers from taking the sisters and even insisted to be taken as well.

The kidnappers reportedly told the SSDI members they only wanted the Bansil sisters with them.

The SSDI said they were not armed while accompanying the sisters. The group was revived in 2003 to pursue the claim of the Sulu Sultanate over their territory. The Sultanate, led by Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, whose armed men sailed to Sabah in January this year to renew the dormant Sabah claim, is a different claimant and is not affiliated with the SSDI.

Art and activism

Both sisters finished college at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.

Linda and Nadjoua have always been advocates of human rights. Pecojon noted that most of their films tackled Moro culture, human rights and mining. "They are Moro women concerned for the plight and preservation of the culture of the Moro people," Pecojon said.

In 2012, the Bansil sisters produced the film "Bohe" (water) which was screened in the 2012 Cinemalaya Philippine independent Film Festival and in the Cebu Documentary International Film Festival.

The film is a story of a group of Badjaos who found home in a tiny patch of land somewhere in Southern Luzon, which they named "Badjawan Island." Bohe was nominated in the Gawad Urian Awards this year.

Nadjoua has been planning to film a story about coffee growers in Mindanao. So when she succeeded in tapping contacts in Sulu, she asked her sister to join her in shooting the film.

Abu Sayyaf

The military confirmed that the kidnapping was perpetrated by members of the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG).

"There were armed men who flagged their vehicle down and abducted them and took them to their hideout," said Jolo Marine commander Col Jose Cenabre.

Cenabre said the companions of the sisters positively identified Ninok Sapari, head of a faction of the ASG, as the leader of the kidnappers.

There were no reports of any ransom demand, as of posting.

ASG has gained notoriety for taking away locals and foreigners for ransom.

The group, which is officially labelled by the US government as a terrorist organization, is believed to be established through seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.

In March, the group released Australian Warren Rodwell after holding him for 15 months. An undisclosed amount of ransom was paid for his release.

Two European bird watchers are still held captive by other ASG factions.

US troops have been based in Mindanao for more than a decade to help train local troops in hunting down members of the group. - with reports from Agence France-Presse