From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 16): Two of 4 seized men freed in southern Philippines
Police forces have recovered before dawn Wednesday two of four people seized by gunmen in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, officials said.
Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, police chief of Sulu province, said the victims – Bernal Joe and Absuwal Sasapan – were recovered by policemen in Tagbak village in Indanan town. The remaining hostages - Dr Salladin Teo and Wilfred Ngo – are still being held captive.
He said the four men were seized in Siasi, an island-town off Sulu province late Tuesday and that since then police forces were tracking down the gunmen until Joe and Sasapan were recovered in Indanan town.
“Two of the victims – Bernal Joe and Absuwal Sasapan – have been recovered by combined elements of the Siasi municipal and provincial police forces. We are still searching for the remaining captives. The victims were all seized from Dr Teo’s house in Siasi and the gunmen dragged them to a waiting speedboat and escaped. There was a pursuit operation shortly after the abduction and one report claimed the victims landed in (the village of) Luuk Tulay in Pata town where our forces are now deployed,” Orbita told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
He said the two freed men were immediately brought to hospital for medical examination and later to the police headquarters in Jolo town for debriefing. “The motive of the abduction is still unknown,” he said.
No group claimed responsibility for the abductions, but Abu Sayyaf rebels have been largely blamed for many ransom kidnappings in the province.
According to a report by the Mindanao Examiner on October 14, the panels exhausted 18 hours of continuous work that started on Saturday, October 12 hoping to sign one of the annexes but failed. A joint statement was released at 4:00 a.m. Sunday, officially ending the five-day session of the 41st exploratory talks. The statement described the panels' “exhaustive, honest discussions in order to identify the best formulations for an agreement that would respond to the aspirations of both Parties.”
“The remaining challenges and the time constraints demand that the Panels remain focused on completing the annexes following a break for Eid'Ul'Adha,” it added. “Both sides have a full understanding of their clear responsibility as they strive towards a sustainable and inclusive solution for the benefit of all people in the Bangsamoro.”
“Despite the exhausting daily overtime sessions in the last five days, the panels remained upbeat,” said GPH Panel Chair Miriam Colonel-Ferrer who described the meetings as very productive, explaining that “Professionalism and mutual respect prevailed throughout the process.”
At the opening of the negotiations, the parties expressed hopes of completing the power-sharing annex, which outlines the reserved powers of the Central Government, the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro Government, and the concurrent powers to be shared by both.
“The panels really wanted to sign even one annex, but both share a common understanding that whatever they sign should create real, viable and lasting solutions to the Bangsamoro problem. They chose to exert extra due diligence in their work in the annexes to ensure that solutions are truly acceptable to the Bangsamoro people who will benefit the most," said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles who arrived Friday night to attend the negotiations until it closed on Sunday early morning as an observer.
Muntinlupa lone district Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a member of the House Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, was also present during the first three days the negotiations.
Coronel-Ferrer said that “very good progress has been achieved in the power-sharing annex including on the possible structure of the new Bangsamoro political entity and the intergovernmental mechanism that can be instituted to ensure coordination and cooperation between the Central and Bangsamoro governments in the exercise of various powers.”
She related that the MILF submitted its proposal on the features of the structure of its envisioned Bangsamoro government. “There is understanding now on the level of detail that would go into the Annex on Power Sharing but some disagreements still on specific features,” she added.
The panel chair also mentioned on-going discussions “on the extent of territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro political entity over waters and on the protection of fishing rights of subsistence fisherfolk in the Sulu Sea and Moro Gulf," as well as progress on the discussions of the GPH and the MILF Technical Working Groups (TWGs) on Normalization.
The TWGs “achieved working consensus on the mechanisms that will address the different security aspects of normalization, such as the private armed groups, and disposition of weapons and combatants, and land conflicts; the provision of socio-economic programs; and reconciliation.”
"We wanted of course to have already completed all the annexes by the time we celebrate the FAB's first year anniversary. But what we can tell our people is that we are nearer than ever in our goal to complete this process. While we've had some setbacks in some of our schedules, we are still on track when it comes to the road map set by the two panels," Secretary Deles explained.
She further added that the people's support and vigilance in accompanying the process is all the more needed now "to ensure that the gains carefully, and with arduous effort, cultivated to bring the process to this point will be sustained and protected from being derailed."
In their joint statement, the two panels thanked Malaysian third party facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed and his secretariat “for burning the midnight oil with us and providing the conducive atmosphere for otherwise intense engagements," and conveyed their gratitude to the members of the International Contact Group who stayed with the panels day and night and “helped sort out some of the difficult issues.”
“The Parties have agreed on a process that will facilitate the settlement of the unsettled issues and will meet again in due time,” said Coronel-Ferrer.