JOLO, Sulu (Updated) -- After almost three months of being held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits, the South Korean cargo ship captain and his Filipino crew were finally freed and released to the government Saturday, January 14.
Filipino seafarer Glen Alindajao, who hails from Cebu, and Chul Hong Park, the captain of the Korean-flag heavy load carrier M/V Dongbat Giant 2 were turned over by Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza around noon, Saturday.
“We were able to successfully recover the hostages. They have been there for about two months and a half,” Dureza, who flew to Davao City from Sulu, made the announcement as he presented the hostages in a press conference.
The two were allegedly abducted by 10 members of the Abu Sayaff group on board a speedboat last October 20.
Dureza said the rebels only managed to abduct the two as they were on the ship bridge for the navigation while the remaining 20 crew members who were inside the cargo vessel managed to lock themselves up in the cabin for safety.
He was also quick to add that they are still not sure whether it was the ASG bandit group who was behind the kidnapping. However, the military claimed in an earlier report that ASG was behind the abduction.
Major Filemon Tan, Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesperson, in a separate interview, said they received the report that the MNLF helped facilitate the release of the kidnap victims.
He said that Chulhong and Alindajao, after they were released, were taken to the residence of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, II in the village of Asturias, Jolo, Sulu.
Meantime, Dureza said there was no need to present the two hostages to President Rodrigo Duterte.
"I contacted [Duterte's special assistant] Mr. Bong Go to inform the President that they were already en route to me and I will physically have the hostage with me," Dureza said.
Dureza said Park was not feeling well, while Alindajao wanted to return to his home province Cebu.
Alindajao extended his gratitude to the effort of the government for their release.
Dureza said the two have to undergo “trauma therapy” and added that the Korean Embassy would take care of them.
Asked if the government paid any ransom for their release, Dureza said, “As far as the government is concerned, we don’t get involved in any ransom payments at all… The government’s official policy is not to pay ransom.”
But he added that they will put their hands off if other parties involved, such as the hostage victim’s family and relatives, insist to pay for the ransom.
"As far as I know [there was] no ransom. You know [the] Philippine Government policy. We don't engage in ransom but if there are some efforts taken by private sector [on this] that is their concern and not ours,” he said.
To avoid another incident, Dureza recommended that all big vessels “must be boarded by armed security officers so they cannot just easily take hostages.”
The release of Chulhong and Alindajao has brought the number of hostages to 25 that are still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the province of Sulu.
The remaining hostages are the following: a Dutch; a German; four Indonesians; five Malaysians; six Vietnamese; and, eight Filipinos. (AP/With SunStar Philippines)