DAVAO CITY - No ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf Group following the release of three Indonesian sailors who were kidnapped last July near Lahad Datu, Malaysia, a top Indonesian official said Sunday.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said that they adhere to a no-ransom policy that their government has been implementing when it comes to kidnapping cases involving their citizens.
Ryacudu flew to Zamboanga City Sunday to personally receive the three released Indonesian hostages, identified as Lorence Koten, Teodorus Kopong and a certain "Emmanuel," who were all on board a trawler when they were snatched up at gun point by members of the Abu Sayyaf.
Ryacudu expressed his gratitude to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for intensifying their offensive against the extremist group in Sulu by deploying more than 10,000 troops in a bid to crush the Al-Qaeda linked rag-tag organization.
Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Mayoralgo dela Cruz said that aside from the relentless military operations against the bandits in Sulu, the Moro National Liberation Front, headed by founding chairman Nur Misuari, played a vital role in the safe release of the three Indonesians.
Dela Cruz said that the MNLF led the negotiation to convince the Abu Sayyaf to release the three Indonesian nationals without any payment of ransom.
However, sources told ABS-CBN Zamboanga that at least P20 million were allegedly paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for the safe release of the foreign captives.
Dela Cruz reiterated that they strictly follow the no-ransom policy of the government but declined to elaborate the details of how the three were freed and how the MNLF convinced the bandits to released their captives without payment of ransom.
Kopong, one of the freed Indonesian hostages, said that they stayed overnight in the MNLF camp after they were released separately along the coastal area of Luuk and Tandu Batu in Sulu.
He said they never thought that they would get out alive from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf. As days and weeks went by, Kopong said their hopes of getting out alive was also getting dimmer -- until one Saturday morning when they were brought to two separate areas.
Kopong remembered how difficult it was during their more than two-month captivity in the jungles of Sulu.
Meanwhile, Ryacudu said they are preparing for the joint military exercises with the Philippine government to beef up maritime security in the southern Philippines, as part of their mitigating measures to address issues of kidnapping and piracy.
Dela Cruz said the details of the joint military exercises are still being discussed and they have yet to finalize the schedule and content of the military exercise.
A trilateral agreement was signed by the Philippine government with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to further tighten the maritime security off southern Philippines following the spate of kidnappings perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf in the past few months this year.
Ryacudu said the Philippine government also agreed to allow their military and police to chase down the Abu Sayyaf, if seen within the country's maritime territories.