Maria Ressa breaks silence on Ces Drilon kidnapping

Posted at Oct 29 2012 12:14 PM | Updated as of Oct 29 2012 08:14 PM

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MANILA, Philippines - Former ABS-CBN News chief and now Rappler CEO Maria Ressa admitted she became emotional during the launch of her new book “10 days, 10 years: From Bin Laden to Facebook.”

Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Ressa said the book launch was the first time for her to speak publicly about the kidnapping of ABS-CBN senior correspondent Ces Drilon and cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama on June 8, 2008 and their release 10 days later.

“I never actually talked about the kidnapping of Ces, Jimmy and Angel, Writing about it is different. The book is about these 10 days when we had to get them out. We never talked about it. It was the first time I talked about it so my voice kept cracking. I didn't cry. I wasn’t that emotional but my God, more emotional than I've ever been,” she said.

Drilon, Encarnacion and Valderama were kidnapped in Maimbung, Sulu, Jolo while pursuing a possible interview with Abu Sayyaf leader Radulan Sahiron.

In the ABS-CBN documentary “Kidnap”, Drilon said she and her team were maltreated by their abductors and threatened with beheading. She said one of their kidnappers even told her: "Mag-make up ka ng mabuti para pag in-LBC [courier service] namin ang ulo mo, maganda."

Ressa said that upon learning about the kidnapping, she talked to veteran journalist Glenda Gloria and Marites Vitug who had collaborated on a book about Mindanao. “Between the 3 of us, we knew who to call and what the situation was on the ground,” she said.

She said her book details everything about the kidnapping including transcripts of phone conversations between the kidnappers and the crisis committee and what they had to do get the 3 journalists and Prof. Octavio Dinampo free. She also revealed the six degrees of separation between Radulan Sahiron's group and the al Qaeda leadership of OSama bin Laden.

Ressa also revealed one takeaway from the Ces kidnapping: that taking a top-down approach to free a kidnap victim in Mindanao would take too long.

“If someone you love gets kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, what do you do? In the Philippines, if you come from outside, you go top down. But going top down, going to the authorities in Manila and then letting them do it, can take months and years,” she said.

Part of the reason why she wrote the book, Ressa said, is because kidnappings still continue in Mindanao. Six months after Drilon’s kidnapping, 3 International Committee of the Red Cross workers were kidnapped by the same group that kidnapped the ABS-CBN news team. The 3 were later released after 6 months.

“Every kidnapping just gives them more money to do the next one. Radulan's group is holding several foreigners hostage: 2 Europeans who went birdwatching, a japanese and a Jordanian journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden. This is the same group that kidnapped Ces. They are still there. Why hasn't anything been done? Why haven't they been captured? These are the questions I always ask,” she said.

She also noted jihadist cell groups continue to spread their ideology through social media even if the topmost al Qaeda leaders have been arrested.

“The [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] has kicked out those linked to terrorism, the [Jemaah Islamiyah] and the Abu Sayyaf. Although that's one victory, that only leads to the next problem that all of the other cells below the leadership that continue to grow and spread ideology,” she said.

“As long as there's injustice in the Muslim world, they will use that. It's about power. It is no longer al Qaeda as top down. Now it's bottom up and they are connecting through Facebook,” she added.

ANC, October 29, 2012