From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 24): Abu Sayyaf frees kidnapped Filipina businesswoman
Military photos show Michelle Panes being attended December 24, 2014 by medical staffs at a hospital in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
Abu Sayyaf rebels have freed a businesswoman on Christmas Eve after four months in captivity in the southern Philippines.
Michelle Panes, who was kidnapped in Zamboanga City in August, has been released in Sulu’s Talipao town at around 9 a.m. after her family reportedly paid a still undetermined amount of ransom.
Panes was recovered by civilians wandering in the village and handed her over to local officials who contacted the military and informed them about the safe release of the woman.
She was brought to a military base in the capital town of Jolo where she underwent a routine medical check up before being transported by a helicopter to the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City where her anxious family was waiting.
The military did not release any statement about the release of the woman, but media reports quoted top brass as saying that the continued operation against the Abu Sayyaf may have contributed to the release of Panes.
Panes was kidnapped by at least 9 gunmen – some of them clad in military uniform - who barged inside the family store at the market area in the coastal village of Labuan.
Her husband, Noel Panes, was nearly taken by the kidnappers as the gang dragged her wife to a waiting speedboat.
Participants were 38 Ulama & Asatidz (known as Arabic teachers) from Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Cotabato City, Marawi City, & Zamboanga City.
The conference intends to persuade the religious leaders from participating in the current peace process between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and to bridge continued communication and collaboration with the ‘ulama’ in promoting peace.
On the first day, Sheikh Abuhuraira Abdulrahman Udasan, the MILF Grand MuftI for Bangsamoro shared his thoughts on Islam and Peace-building.
“Muslims are committed & obliged to promote peace. If our adversaries offer peace then we must be responsive”, the Grand Mufti said.
“We should unite under the banner of Islam and should not promote tribalism,” he told his audience.
Major issues on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were discussed by Engr. Mohadjirin Ali, member of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat.
On the second day, Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) talked about the role of ulama in the MILF-led struggle and peace process roadmap.
In admitting religious leaders' vital role in peace process, Iqbal encouraged the participants to continue the MILF's legacy, sighting that the MILF was founded by an Aleem (singular of Ulama, an Arabic word known as Islamic scholar). Other political and military organs of the MILF are also headed by Ulama.
“This BBL is for all Bangsamoro, not for MILF alone, and we must protect it.” Iqbal said. He further said that the "Bangsamoro is our political identity; we must push and fight for it."
Iqbal urged religious leaders to promote and strengthen unity as mentioned in the Holy Qur'an.