From InterAksyon (Nov 24): Slain Army major helped negotiate for release of kidnapped German couple
An Army major who was among three soldiers slain last week in what the military called was a robbery incident on the Maguindanao-North Cotabato national highway helped negotiate for the release of the kidnapped German couple in Sulu, a senior military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity told InterAksyon.com.
Until now the military has refused to disclose the name of the slain officer as well as those of his two security aides. But in an earlier article Interaksyon.com identifed the officer as Maj. Gerald Finsona.
Reportedly, Finsona and his men were travelling from General Santos City when they were killed at around 2 p.m. November 17 along the national highway in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
According to an incident report given by Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army's 6th Infantry Division, the time of the incident was 12:30 p.m.
"The victims on board a civilian pick-up truck [were] flagged down by a lawless armed group belonging to the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters). Without any provocation, the victims were shot at close range [and] divested of their valuables. Responding elements of 40 IB (Infantry Battalion) brought the victims to Midsayap Community Hospital in North Cotabato but all were declared DOA (dead on arrival)," Hermoso said.
"Their identities were later confirmed as members of Hqs (Headquarters), Phil. Army (1 officer, 2 enlisted personnel). Their names are withheld pending notification of next of kin. PNP (Philippine National Police) initial investigation disclosed that the motive is robbery," he added.
Other sources said Finsona was a product of the Officer Preparatory School (OPS) and a member of the Scout Ranger.
"Finsona had just come from Basilan and dropped by General Santos City to pick up his two aides and then travelled back to headquarters when they met along the national highway an 'AA' (Asset, Asset) and other men who turned out to be the gunmen. We don't know what went wrong between the officer and his AA why the latter had to kill him, dinamay na rin yung dalawa pang sundalo (the two other soldiers were also killed in the process)," a second source said.
He confirmed the first source's claim that Finsona helped negotiate with "Basilan-based contacts" for the release of 71-year-old physician Estefan Victor Okenek and his partner, 55-year-old Henrike Dielen.
The German couple was released last October in Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) allegedly in exchange for P250 million in ransom money which the ASG confirmed but the military strongly denied. The local government of Sulu later slammed the Armed Forces of the Philippines led by Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. for keeping secret the release of the two hostages from the Crisis Management Committee (CMC). Catapang later issued an apology.
After the killing of Finsona ang his two men, BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama confirmed in a report by Interaksyon.com that his men were behind the incident.
The military learned later that Finsona's "AA" was a former member of the BIFF.
"I can only speculate. Siguro gusto nang bumalik sa BIFF itong AA ni Finsona kaya bilang kapalit ng kanyang pagbalik, to show his sincerity, ay patayin niya si Finsona (Maybe this asset wanted to return to the BIFF and as proof of his sincerity was required to kill Finsona)," the second source said.