2 of 3 Filipinos kidnapped in Sabah resort identified

THE military confirmed Tuesday that three Filipinos were abducted along with three Indonesians from a resort in Borneo last Sunday night.

The Filipino kidnap victims were identified as Norberto Aresi and a certain
Nico. Another Filipino, Nestor Ireneo, managed to escape.

Malacaņang reaffirmed Tuesday the government's cooperation and assistance in apprehending the culprits behind the kidnapping of six workers of the Borneo Paradise Resort in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia, especially if they entered the county's territory.

Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye issued as he and President Arroyo noted that there is no proof yet that Filipino bandits are involve in the "regrettable
incident."

Meanwhile, Malaysian authorities have recovered the speedboat allegedly used by the abductors of the Filipino and Indonesian workers, Lt. Gen. Rodolfo
Garcia, vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said Tuesday.

"According to the latest report we received, Malaysian authorities recovered the speedboat in the Kunak River," said Garcia.

Garcia said the recovery of the speedboat indicates that the kidnappers have not entered the country and are most likely Malaysians and not members of the Abu
Sayyaf group.

"The group is most probably composed of local bandits operating in Sabah, Malaysia, because they are reportedly very fluent in Bahasa Melayu or Malaysian," he added.

Garcia, however, said the military remains on alert in case the kidnappers do proceed to Mindanao. "We have naval ships watching the border between Tawi-Tawi and Sabah," he said.

He added that no demands were received regarding the release of the hostages.

Some of the 10 kidnappers wore military fatigues and carried modern weapons, Norian said, but he ruled out speculation that the Abu Sayyaf were responsible.

The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 people, mostly Western tourists, from the Sipadan resort in Sabah in April 2000, holding them for nearly a year before releasing them, reportedly in exchange for millions of dollars in ransom.

Norian said the Abu Sayyaf had been ruled out because of the choice of target - workers rather than foreign tourists - and that locals seeking ransom were the
main suspects. But he added that Indonesian and Philippine armed forces were cooperating in the hunt for the kidnappers.

Meanwhile, Bunye added that a thorough investigation must first be conducted and completed before anyone could affirm if the Abu Sayyaf or any Filipino bandit
group is involve in the kidnapping.

Arroyo, in a statement from Bali, Indonesia, where she is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, said the incident is a test on the country's agreement with Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei on the exchange of information and information on terrorism and
trans-national crimes.

The President, after her dinner meeting with other Asean leaders, talked to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad about the kidnapping incident and
both reaffirmed their commitment to fighting terrorism and trans-national crime.
Arroyo ordered Foreign Affairs Sec. Blas Ople to coordinate with his Malaysian counterpart Syed Hamid Albar on the incident.

"Close coordination with Malaysian authorities is being pursued, aimed at identifying the suspects, pinpointing their location and stepping up information
and intelligence exchange," Arroyo said.


She also instructed Defense Sec. Eduardo Ermita to work with the Armed Forces in tapping local information sources in the country and to pro-actively scour places in Mindanao where the abductors could possibly seek refuge.

"The dragnet must be local and transnational and we shall keep up the vigilance until this crime is solved," she added. Miko Santos/ST

08/10/2003

Bron : Sun Star

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