The good news is – Filipina hostage Mary Jane Lacaba was rescued and recovered alive from the kidnappers (April 2, 2009). Some reports alleged that she was handed-over formally by the captors to the negotiators, not rescued, upon payment of ransom!
The bad news is – the Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni are still under captivity, sad to say, a day after freeing Lacaba, the kidnappers threatened to execute these two remaining captives. We do not know when? May awa ang diyos, huwag po naman sana!
With this new development, authorities are readying the evacuation of over 21,000 residents in 5 towns of Sulu for a possible worst case scenario or armed confrontation between security forces and the Abu Sayyaf bandits, as reported in various newspapers (April 3, 2009)
In retrospect: Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni have been kidnapped and remained in the jungles of Sulu since January 15, 2009. They were abducted after a visit to a local prison where the Red Cross is funding a water project.
Recall that barely an hour before the ultimatum would lapse, Philippine Red Cross Chairman Senator Richard Gordon asked the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers for proof that the three Red Cross volunteer workers were alive as government troops and tanks moved closer amidst the threats to behead the captives. (April 1, 2009)
Senator Gordon’s messages to the captives, while uttering the words of comfort and inspiration, suddenly tears fell from his eyes, saying – “The whole family of Red Cross prays for you and I’m proud of the way you’ve comported yourself”. “I’m sorry I should be stronger than you because I’m not in the midst of the ordeal you are in now.”
And to the captors he pleaded, – “There was no glory in what the captors are doing. You are just pinning yourself down. These people are not your enemies. They were here to help the prisoners in the city jail by providing them with water and other needs”.
As the crisis deepens, the Catholic Church is urging Filipinos to pray for the release of the kidnapped ICRC workers.
The CBCP circulated copies of a pastoral letter in all catholic churches exhorting all Filipinos as brothers and sisters to reach out to both kidnappers and their hostages with prayers, saying that let it be a whole nation praying that all may experience true freedom and security. Likewise The CBCP is appealing to both kidnappers and the government to use every peaceful means to address thought peaceful process what ever is the root of this on going problem of kidnapping in Jolo, Sulu and the whole country.
We, as peace loving Filipinos, are sympathizing with the plight that the hostages are facing right now in the hinterlands of Sulu. They are facing the uncertainty of tomorrow, “nangangamba tayo na baka gagawin ng mga bandido ang kanilang banta”, God forbids!
– Just try to sympathize with their families, and imagine the sufferings, anguishes, mental torture, psychological-emotional pains, sleepless nights, mental shocks, fears and insecurities. As, anytime from now, the captives would be caught in the crossfire of the battle between the kidnappers and government forces once the latter commences its rescue operations. Also, anytime from now, they can be executed and beheaded by their captors.
From a distance, we can only offer our prayers for the lasting solution to this horrible situation in Sulu and for the release of the two other captives from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
After freeing the Filipina, the fate of the hostages is still uncertain and unknown, and the fear of bloodshed is inevitable once the military begins its rescue operations in Sulu. Madaming inosenteng civilians ang madadamay sa bakbakang militar at mga bandidong grupo!
– Also, try to dramatize the situation, and imagine a scenario, or put yourself in the shoes of the families or relatives of one of the hostages, or of all the hostages, coupled with the shocking news update every now and then that the kidnappers are threatening to behead the hostages one by one. For sure, “hindi ka mapapakali, hindi ka makakain, maiihi ka, matatae ka, iikot ang tumbong mo at hindi ka makakatulog”, why? Because these group of kidnappers are known for their barbaric acts in the past. By all means, they have the capacity to exterminate the captives when their demands for ransom, or otherwise, are not heeded, and not taken seriously by the government negotiators, etc.
In fact, I was monitoring this incident for weeks now, and believe me guys while I was watching the news update on TV, a day before Lacaba was released, “naluha ako at naiyak”, because I could not help but to reminiscence the sad memories of the past, similar to the ordeal and nightmare that the hostages have gone thru for months in the mountains, and the tormented mind of the victims’ families as well, …… I cried, and tears fell from my eyes because some years ago my father, Ceferino was kidnapped by the NPAs, and my brother, Edilberto, was also victim of kidnapping years back in Nigeria.
In local parlance, malungkot ang alaala ng kahapon, kaya hindi ko mapigilan ang maiyak at maluha sa ganitong sitwasyun!
RE; Kidnapping of my father, Ceferino!
Sometime in 1995, my father was kidnapped by the NPAs in San Ramon, Bulan. While my brother, a seaman-engineer, was held captive by the Nigerian rebels in Warri of 2007.
My father, a municipal councilor then, and was active in local politics in Bulan. All of the sudden, one gloomy afternoon, the NPAs had snatched my father in our house and was forcibly brought to the jungle of the unknown, and of place of no return, where most, if not all, of the civilians, who have been held hostage by the rebels were buried thereat after being strangulated, stabbed, or buried alive according the reports; my father used to describe the place as between the boundary of the towns of Juban and Magallanes overlooking the sea from a far. He was held in captivity for almost a week, blindfolded and his hands were tied, and could not sleep well due to the pestering sounds and bites of the mosquitoes, known carriers of malaria virus (hindi pa uso nuon ang sakit na dengue).
Fear of not seeing his husband anymore, my mother has already entertained a thought of committing suicide due to hopelessness, frustration and despair. No news, no update of the incident, or the whereabouts of my father is still unknown, no means of communication, no telephone, no text, no cellular phone to connect thru to the captors at that time. But, worst, the NPAs had advised my mother not to tell anybody about the incident, nor report the kidnapping to the authority, which my mother obligingly did.
Despite said warning, some concerned citizens reported the said incident to the police, and minutes thereafter, the police proceeded to our house in San Ramon to confirm the reported kidnapping of my father, but my mother, for fear of reprisal from the captors opted to remain silent about it and when asked about the incident, she even diverted the interrogation made by the men in uniform saying that my father was in Manila for his regular medical check up, but the men in uniform did not believe her claim, because my mother at that time was uneasy and crying and tears were falling from her eyes uncontrolled by cotton handkerchief.
Luckily, prayers really paid off, because after week long of captivity my father was finally released unharmed somewhere in the mountainous barangay in Irosin.
The reason why he was kidnapped? According to them, my father is a spy for the military, and is having an illicit relationship with another woman. Oh my Gulay, this is a silly accusation? This is a blatant lie and not true. A fabricated and concocted charge purportedly made by his political rivals, who have personal grudge to grind against my father, “mga inggitero” in our barangay. But, this is politics anyway, a dirty politics I should say!
In consideration of his release, a board & lodging had been charged to my father’s account, he was asked to defray of the amount of P45-Thousand pesos, which we obligingly complied with (note: from the first demand of 100thousand pesos, natawaran hanggang umabot ng 45thousand nalang), on the condition that said amount would be treated not as a payment for ransom, but to be referred to as sort of a Donation to the KILUSAN, or as payment for the board & lodging of my father while under captivity. Silly, is it not?
RE; Kidnapping of my brother, Edilberto!
My brother, Edilberto, a seaman-engineer, was kidnapped along with the other 23 Filipino crew while their ship was navigating along the Delta River in Warri, Nigeria.
They were held in captivity for 24 days in the jungle of the Warri by the rebels who called themselves, the Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (or, “MEND”), the dreaded and most notorious group of rebels in Nigeria, engaged in piracy, kidnapping and extortion, whose leader opted to remain as a mysterious leader of the group, called “General”.
Within 24 days of captivity, we, the families, have suffered several days of sleepless nights, anxieties and mental shock, and like the ICRC Workers’ hostages, we’re also facing the same fate of uncertainty at that time. Because, the MEND rebels also threatened to execute one by one the Filipino hostages as reported in the CNN and BBC if the government of Nigeria and the ship owner would not heed to their demands. To resolve the problem, the Nigerian government has already called its men in uniform to prepare for the worst case scenario to rescue the captives at all costs, but luckily the purported plan did not push through, because the rebels threatened to use their hostages as human shields once the military pursues its plan.
We were then in constant contact with the representatives of the DFA, OWWA and the Hamonia Shipping Agency, the local manning agency, for more updates, these representatives would always advise us (families of the hostages) not to allow each one of us to be interviewed by media people in order not to jeopardize the on-going negotiations between the Nigerian government and the rebels, as well as the representative of the shipowner.
Amidst the advisory from the DFA and OWWA to shun away interviews by media people, feeling uneasy and worried of the situation, I then defied said warning, and taken the cudgel for all the families of the seamen-hostages by writing a letter of appeal to a local newspaper in Nigeria (the “Guardian”) via email. The contents of my letter was published in Nigeria and in also in various newspapers in Manila. Because of that incident, I was summoned by the DFA and that of Hamonia representatives in their office advising me to please avoid further making an appeal to the MEND rebels because in so doing I might be able to complicate or jeopardize the on-going negotiations. Their reason is “lalaki daw ang ulo ng mga rebelde at mas lalong magdedemand ng malaki dahil umaapela ang pamilya ng biktima for humanitarian considerations”.
The Picture below, (courtesy of CNN) – where kidnappers displayed their high-powered guns to the Filipino crew hostages in the undisclosed place in Warri, Nigeria.
Hereunder is my letter to the Guardian newspaper in Nigeria which was published thereat, viz:
Families’ Plea to Captors: Release Seamen in Nigeria
02/03/2007 | 10:48 AM
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Families of 24 Filipino seamen abducted in Nigeria last month appealed anew to the captors over the weekend to release their hostages.
In a letter published Friday in the Nigerian newspaper “The Guardian” (www.guardian.newsngr.com), Benjamin Gaspi of Manila sought a win-win solution to end the crisis.
“We, the families of the abducted Filipino seamen, are hereby appealing to the Nigerian militants for the immediate release of the seafarers from weeklong captivity … Once again, we appeal to the kidnappers to release the captives,” Gaspi said in his letter.
“We hope and pray that both the government and the militants should find a way to come up with a win-win solution to end the crisis. The families of these hostages in the Philippines are suffering from severe anxiety, stressful days, wounded feelings, moral shock, depression and sleepless nights,” he added.
Although Gaspi did not specify his relation to any of the abducted seamen, he indicated he was writing the letter on behalf of the families of the abducted seamen.
He said the crewmen should not have been abducted because they were “not interfering nor are they intervening in the internal and political affairs of Nigeria.”
“These seamen have nothing to pay because they have no money to pay the ransom (if any). If they really want money they can let go the crew, then take full custody of the vessel and its cargo, then the owner can now pay as well as all those people who have interest in the vessel and cargo,” he said.
Negotiations are still ongoing for the release of the 24 Filipino seafarers and crew of Baco Liner 2, a German owned-vessel held hostage by Nigerian militants last Jan. 19.
At least seven of the crewmembers were brought to a safe house while the others remained inside the ship under the control of the militants.
Gaspi also voiced concern that the hostages may contract malaria and diarrhea.
“We are very much worried and anxious because we do not even know the names of the seamen who were taken ashore and those who were held hostage inside the ship,” he said.
AT HINDI PA RIN PO AKO MAPAKALI, kaya sumulat ako sa Ambasador ng Pilipinas sa Abuja, Nigeria. Ito ang nilalaman ng follow-up letter ko kay Ambasador Umpa, thru email, viz:
February 1, 2007
HON. MASARANGA R. UMPA
Philippine Embassy in Abuja
Dear Mr. Ambassador,
Sir, unless the those captives are released from nearly month long of captivity; anxiety, mental anguish, low morale, boredom, sleepless nights, despair and depressions will always be part of the day to day routine of the wives, families and relatives of the 24 abducted Filipino seafarers since they were held hostage last January 19, 2007 by the so called Nigerian Militants-MEND.
Considering Sir, that the DFA has imposed a news black-out on the progress of the negotiation and even told the families to cooperate with them by not entertaining interviews from the local media so as not to derail the negotiations, may we respectfully ask an update or breaking news directly from your good office on the progress or status of the negotiation between the rebels and the delta state government, including the chances of having them released as soon as possible.
We understand also that your good office is doing its best to fast track the release of the hostages. Just to calm down, pacify and appease the feeling anxieties among the families of the kidnapped seamen, please give us an update on this incident.
We hope also that you will not get angry at us for being so “MAKULIT” in asking an update from your office every now and then, after all, the lives of the Filipino people are at stake here.
Thank you so much sir for accommodating always my request.
Very truly yours,
BENJAMIN G. GASPI & FAMILY
Another picture, (courtesy of CNN) – where kidnappers performed their native dance and rituals carrying with them loaded high-powered guns, firing their guns down the soil and up in the air.
Upon receipt of my letter, the Honorable Ambassador Umpa readily replied to my query, as follows:
PASUGUAN NG PILIPINAS EMBASSY OF THE PHILIPPINES
01 February 2007
Mr. Benjamin G. Gaspi
MIS- 43 -2007
Dear Mr. Gaspi:
The Philippine Embassy in Nigeria acknowledges receipt of your letter dated
01 February 2007.
We understand your concern for the welfare of your brother and the rest of the
Filipino seamen abducted in Warri. Rest assured that the Embassy is doing all
its best to work out the release of our Filipino brothers.
I have personally led a six-man Embassy team to make sure that negotiations
are fast-tracked and that the Filipinos are treated well and are in good
condition. Daily contacts with the chief government negotiator are maintained
since Embassy personnel and the Delta State Government officials involved
are staying in the same place.
As regards the conflicting reports, the Embassy assures you that we are
closely monitoring every phase of the negotiations and as such, has the
higher authority to verify and confirm what transpires in the course of the talks
to release the hostages, in close coordination with the chief government
negotiator and other Delta State officials.
Thus, more weight should be given to the Embassy reports than to the articles
written in Nigerian local papers. We reiterate that the 24 Filipinos are safe and
are in good condition. The German office of the ship’s owners, as well as the
representatives of the local manning agency here in Warri have denied being
contacted whatsoever by anyone regarding the critical situation of some of the”
Further, the Embassy would also like to inform you that it is coordinating with
the German employers in the event of release of the 24 seamen.
Finally, we are hoping for the best and we are counting on your prayers and
the rest of the Filipino nation’s so that we could see light at the end of the
We appreciate your continued support and please feel free to communicate
with the Embassy any time and be up dated with any developments.
Thank you once again and best regards.
Very truly yours,
MASARANGGA A.R. UMPA
Also, picture below (courtesy of CNN), as told by my brother, sometimes kidnappers would point the barrels of their guns to the captives to intimidate them, and more significantly to catch the attention of the international community. (you see how worried they are in this picture).
At Last, after marathon negotiation with the kidnappers, the 24-Filipino crew, who were held hostage by the MEND militant rebels, were finally released upon paying of, allegedly more or less, 50M U.S. dollars as ransom.
Released Finally: as published in Manila Times, and other local newspapers and tabloid, viz:
Emotional Reunion for Released Seamen
Monday, February 19, 2007
REUNITED with her husband Roberto, chief engineer of the ship seized by rebels in Nigeria, Jocelyn Arcangel said she and her family would take a holiday before deciding on their future.
Roberto was among the 24 Filipino seamen recently released after being held captive at gunpoint for 24 days. They flew home Saturday to an emotional reunion with loved ones.
“We will have a very long family vacation after this incident and we’ll decide after whether he [Roberto] should leave again,” Jocelyn said.
“My sons don’t want him to leave anymore. It was very traumatic. We have not heard from them for a long time and there are fears that they were harmed,” she said.
Roberto said he just wanted to be with his family before declining to talk further with reporters.
Glenda Cagas said her husband, Herculano Cagas, the ship’s third engineer, would probably ship out again after resting in Manila, despite his traumatic ordeal.
“It is difficult, but we don’t have any other choice. We need the livelihood for the family,” Cagas said, noting that their two children aged six and four have yet to enter primary school.
“The hardest part for us was when we saw them on cable television being threatened with guns by their captors in masks,” she said.
Looking haggard after their ordeal but smiling and waving, the men were met by government officials and a throng of journalists after disembarking from a commercial flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“We are very happy. Thank you very much President [Gloria] Arroyo,” they said in unison to an explosion of camera flashes.
They were quickly taken to Malacañang and tearfully reunited with family and friends.
Gunmen seized the oil workers on January 20 from a Nigerian-flagged, German-owned cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.
They were held captive under constant threat by masked gunmen in muddy swamps of the oil-rich Delta region, as Philippine and Nigerian negotiators worked for their release.
It is still unclear who was responsible for the seizure, although a high-profile militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, has fingered a rival outfit identified as Fndic.
The men declined to comment on negotiations that led to their freedom on February 13 for fear of jeopardizing the safety of two other Filipinos seized separately. Filipino diplomats are in Nigeria working to free them.
A Filipina woman was abducted on February 7 in Port Harcourt in Rivers State. Gunmen abducted the woman from the center of the city, at the heart of Nigeria’s oil industry.
A day earlier a Filipino employee of Netco Dietsmann-the Nigerian arm of a Monaco-based oil services company-was seized from a company car heading for the airport in Owerri, the capital of Imo State.
Nigeria is one of the biggest employers of Filipino workers in Africa, with some 3,900 Filipinos employed there at the end of 2006.
The Philippines is one of Asia’s biggest exporters of manpower, with an estimated eight million of its citizens working as maids, seafarers, oil rig workers and in other labor-intensive jobs.
President Arroyo has banned further deployments to Nigeria in the wake of the kidnappings.
On Sunday she instructed embassy officials assigned in conflict areas to ensure the safety of Filipinos in their areas.
Besides Arcangel and Cagas, the crewmembers of Baco Liner 2 are Ruben Roble, master; Elmer Nacionales, chief officer; Carlos Abellana, 2nd officer; Mauro Agacid, 3rd officer; Cirilo Nebit, 2nd engineer; Engr. Edilberto Gaspi, electro tech officer; Sukarno Landasan, Rogelio Garcia, Jonel Bernales, Manolo Isidro, Marlon Mendez, Ronaldo Corpuz, Joven Hidalgo, Jose Talde, Samson Mayo, Henry Sebastian, Jonie Saguid, Edgardo Ellera, Evelio Nacionales, Marcelino Caladman, Nelson Aquino and Herman Valez.
The President said the government would maintain close watch over the welfare of Filipino workers worldwide.
“We continue to pray with the same fervor for the remaining hostages in Nigeria in the hope that their situation will also come to a happy ending,” she said.
The President also thanked the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs who were involved in the release of the Filipino seafarers.
“To those who work to ensure the safety of our Filipino men, thank you, particularly Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Estevan Conejos Jr. and Special Ambassador to the Middle East Roy Cimatu,” she said.
-AFP and Sam Mediavilla
The Picture below of jubilant Filipino crew upon their arrival at the NAIA, after being released from the 24 days of captivity. My brother, Edilberto, is at the center raising and waving his left-hand to the media people. He is the tallest among the crew.
PGMA Welcomes 24 Freed Seamen and their Families in Malacañang
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2007 | OFW
Twenty-four Filipino seamen, who were freed recently after almost a month of captivity by their Nigerian captors in the oil-rich Niger Delta in Nigeria, thanked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last night for her immediate action to secure their release.
The seamen, who arrived at 6:40 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from Nigeria via Hong Kong, proceeded to Malacañang to personally extend their gratitude to the President.
The President, together with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, hosted a sumptuous dinner for the 24 seamen along with their family members, relatives and friends at the Palace Heroes’ Hall.
During the emotional family reunions, the President went from table to table and had brief talk with the newly-arrived seamen and their family members.
“Maraming salamat po, Madame President, sa inyong mabilis na pagtugon sa aming panawagan na kami ay mapalaya agad,” said the seafarers as they echoed their gratefulness to the President.
“Welcome back to the Philippines. Praise God! Salamat sa inyong pag-sakripisyo. Have a nice reunion sa inyong mga pamilya,” the President told them.
The Chief Executive had earlier thanked Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo for “taking a direct hand” in the release of the Filipino seamen.
She also lauded all diplomats who were involved in the immediate release of the 24 seamen, particularly Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. and special envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu.
“Salamat sa mga nagtrabaho nating diplomat para masiguro ang inyong kaligtasan, katulad ni Usec Conejos at Ambassador Cimatu. Araw-araw ay sinasabi ko na siguraduhin ang inyong kaligtasan at 24 oras silang
nagtrabaho. Praise God that everything had ended well,” she said.
The released Filipino crew members of Baco Liner 2 who called on the President at Malacañang were Ruben Roble, master; Elmer Nacionales, chief officer; Carlos Abellana, 2nd officer; Mauro Agacid, 3rd officer; Roberto Arcangerl, chief engineer; Cirilo Nebit, 2nd engineer; Herculano Cagas, 3rd engineer; Engr. Edilberto Gaspi, electro tech officer; Sukarno Landasan, Rogelio Garcia, Jonel Bernales, Manolo Isidro, Marlon Mendez, Ronaldo Corpuz, Joven Hidalgo, Jose Talde, Samson Mayo, Henry Sebastian, Jonie Saguid, Edgardo Ellera, Evelio Nacionales, Marcelino Caladman, Nelson Aquino, and Herman Valez.
They were abducted by Nigerian gunmen on Jan. 20 and freed unharmed last Feb. 13 without any ransom paid.
Meanwhile, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said President Arroyo is hopeful that the two remaining Filipino hostages in Nigeria would also be released soon by their captors.
“The government maintains a close watch over the welfare and well-being of our workers all over the world, and President Arroyo always takes a personal hand in critical events such as the last one,” Bunye said.
“Active diplomacy at a high level and the active presence of our diplomats on the ground will continue to be our strategy to keep our beleaguered workers from harm’s way and to bring them home,” he added.
- – – xxx
Actually, may isa pa akong kapatid na seaman na si Alberto, ay muntik na rin makidnap ng mga Somali pirates in 2007, buti nalang daw nai-locked nila lahat ang doors ng ship, kaya hindi nakapasok sa loob at umalis agad,,, the rest is history na.
SANA WALA NG SUSUNOD NA INSIDENTE NG KIDNAPPING NG MGA FILIPINO O BANYAGA SA MINDANAO O SAAN MANG SULOK NG PILIPINAS AT MATIGIL NA RIN ANG SUNUD-SUNOD NA PAGKIDNAP NG MGA PIRATANG SOMALIA SA MGA FILIPINO SEAMEN.
GOD BLESS US ALL. SHALOM!
Long live Bulan Observer.