ILIGAN CITY (Updated) - The two college students of Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) were freed by their abductors at Barangay Kaburasan in Munai town of Lanao del Norte bordering Pantao Ragat in Lanao del Norte and Piagapo town in Lanao del Sur at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 16.
Lawyer Abdul Jamal Dimaporo, head agent-in-charge of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Iligan District Office, said the release of Berzon Rey Paeste of Poblacion San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur and Cedrick Jamias of Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, was made possible through the negotiation efforts of incoming Munai town mayor Casan Maquiling, MSU-IIT management, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Abdulrahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, the NBI, military and the police.
Paeste said the abductors demanded P2 million for him and P5 million for Jamias who was mistaken to be a Korean national.
In a text message sent to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, Colonel Audie Mongao, commanding officer of the 15th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said the students were released after the two families contributed P500,000 despite the government’s “no ransom” policy.
But the parents of the victims denied paying any ransom for the release of their children.
Dimaporo also said no ransom was paid to the abductors after Commander Bravo negotiated with the latter for the release of the victims who were held captives for 13 days.
Paeste and Jamias were brought by the abductors in Lininding in Piagapo town.
Maquiling said he tapped help from some of the barangay chieftains in Munai who are familiar with the terrain in the forest areas.
Paeste and Jamias went through medical check-up inside the NBI Iligan City office, and Paeste has been recommended for hospital confinement as he shows physical weakness.
Dito Maruhom, chief security officer of MSU-IIT and Secretary of Iligan Chamber of Industries, has recommended to the Iligan City government to require establishments in the city to install closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and prohibit drinking of alcoholic beverages outside mini-marts of gas stations.
Mark Torres, one of the officials of the Institute of Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM), said the peace mechanism between the MILF and the government has worked as Commander Bravo and his men showed sincerity in saving the lives of the kidnapped students.
"The NBI has the names of the suspected abductors and appropriate cases will be filed in due time," Dimaporo said.
Paeste who completed his Bachelor of Arts major in History was supposed to join the graduation exercises on June 15. Paeste will receive his diploma before MSU-IIT Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol while Jamias would still be attending his summer classes.
"The graduation ceremony is not as important compared with my freedom from the hands of our abductors,” Paeste said.