Abductions continue: Family kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay

DIPOLOG CITY, Philippines –  A couple and their child have been abducted in Zamboanga Sibugay barely two months after police declared a major victory against its campaign against kidnap-for-ransom groups.

A government employee, his wife, and their child were abducted in Barangay Kulisap, Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay,  early Friday night, August 5.

A senior police officer based at Regional Police Office 9 in Zamboanga City told Rappler that there is an ongoing combined police and army operation in the area.

"Hopefully we can recover the victims soon. We believe the kidnappers have not slipped out of the area yet," the police officer said in Filipino.

At least 7 armed men have reportedly taken the victims at gunpoint.

The police officer identified the victims as Payao government employee Elmer Romoc, 41 years old; and his wife Nora, a businesswoman.

The family owns a general merchandise store and a coconut plantation from which, according to police, the victims recently earned P300,000 worth of copra.

The abduction took place barely two months after the police said they had crippled a kidnapping syndicate in Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay with the arrest of its leader.

Abu Sayyaf kidnap group

On June 14, authorities nabbed Abner Gumandol, also known as Sehar Mulok and "Commander Red Eye," who the police claimed was an accomplice of Abu Sayyaf kidnap group. (READ: Abu Sayyaf 'outsourcing' kidnap operations – police)

Police Senior Superintendent Edwin Buenaventura Wagan, Zamboanga del Norte police provincial commander, said that Gumandol and his group operated in Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte.

Gumandol was brought to Zamboanga del Norte to face charges for the kidnapping of former Italian missionary Rolando del Torchio and Mayor Jeffrey Lim of Salug, Zamboanga del Norte, in 2012.

Authorities earlier described Gumandol, who is said to have more than 20 followers in Salug, as the Abu Sayyaf's "spotter" in the case of Del Torchio.

Gumandol's wife, Shariffa, denied her husband was a member of the Abu Sayyaf group.

"He is not connected with Abu Sayyaf," she said, adding that Gumandol is "an active brigade commander of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) based in Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay." - Rappler.com