Filipina freed by kidnappers in Sabah says ransom was paid
MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato —The Filipino migrant worker abducted in Malaysia along with a Chinese national by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in April believes ransom money was paid for their release on May 30 by the family of her fellow captive.
Forty-year-old Mercedita Dayawan, a resident of this town, said she took part in the negotiations for the release of Chinese national Gao Hua Yuan as translator.
The duo was seized by Filipino gunmen from the Singmata Adventures Reef and Resort off Sabah on April 2. The Filipina worked in the resort as a member of its staff.
“I served as translator between Gao and the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers so I know how much money was involved,” Dayawan told the Church-run Radio DXMS.
She said Gao, 29, a student from Shanghai, conducted the negotiations with her parents. The kidnappers, Dayawan said, initially wanted P500 million for the Chinese national’s release.
“Gao would talk to her parents and then tell me in English what the conversation was all about. I would then translate it into Filipino to the captors,” Dayawan said.
Dayawan said that during the negotiations, the kidnappers threatened to behead them if ransom was not paid.
She said the kidnappers eventually settled for P300 million and that the Gao family agreed to pay it.
“I was convinced money was paid because that was repeatedly demanded by the kidnappers before they freed us,” she said, explaining that the ransom was really for the Chinese woman and that the kidnappers never demanded any ransom specifically for her.
Dayawan, who admitted entering Sabah illegally via the “southern backdoor,” told reporters that the fact they were not beheaded but were instead released made her believe all the more that money did change hands.
But she said Philippine and Malaysian authorities would say that no ransom was involved.
Asked how certain she was the kidnappers were Abu Sayyaf, Dayawan said she suspected they were.
She said the group, led by one Alhabsi Misaya, kept them in the jungles of Indanan in Sulu for weeks and that they were released in Sabah.
“They called their leader Misaya and sometimes Maas (elder),” she said, adding that their captors numbered about 70 heavily armed men.
Dayawan recalled that while in captivity, she served as Gao’s caretaker, attending to her needs.
“She cried heavily when we parted ways in Kuala Lumpur,” Dayawan said.
“Most of the time we were fed fried chicken the Abu Sayaff bought from a food store somewhere; it tasted good,” she said.
When Gao celebrated her birthday on April 8, Dayawan said, the kidnappers also brought in “special food” bought from “the town.”
The kidnappers, she said, respected their privacy throughout their captivity.
“They did not touch us, they respected us as women,” she said.
But Dayawan said they were tightly guarded, constantly watched by at least two armed men.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.