Gazmin insists Atyani, TV crew not kidnapped
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday said he was still unconvinced that a Jordanian TV reporter and two Filipino cameramen were really being held hostage by Islamic extremists in Sulu but the military would launch rescue operations if they are ordered to do so by the crisis management committee in Sulu.
Gazmin said reports from Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command, indicated the Baker Atyani, Southeast Asian bureau chief of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network, Filipino cameraman Ramelito Vela and audioman Rolando Letrero “are freely moving in rebel camps in Sulu province.”
The Jordanian Foreign Ministry and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had confirmed on Friday that the media team, which went missing on June 12, were now being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Robredo revealed that contact with the captors was made with the local company of the cameramen on Friday.
The military has expressed disdain at media’s attempts to interview antigovernment rebels. Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan earlier faulted the two Filipinos for “following that fool,” refering to Atyani. The journalist was rumored to be working on a documentary on the Abu Sayyaf, a shadowy group linked to the Jemaah Islamiya terror network in Indonesia and other parts of southeast Asia.
Gazmin said Coballes had said “there were sightings” of the missing media team.
“Reports reached them that the Jordanian was moving around with his crew from one camp to another, in the Abu Sayyaf camp, and the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) camp,” Gazmin added.
“So from that you can easily deduce that he is not a captive,” Gazmin told reporters on Tuesday.
“It’s not a conclusion. You can go around, you can move from the MNLF to the Abu Sayyaf. If you are a captive, you cannot leave the camp. That’s a normal deduction,” he went on.
Gazmin said Coballes did not say whether Baker and his companions were accompanied by armed men.
“That was not included in the report. The report just said he was going around,” Gazmin said.
The Jordanian Embassy last week said Baker was abducted while on an assignment.
Gazmin said their information was that Atyani in the country to cover the release of a hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.
But Gazmin said military troops will abide by any order from the crisis management committee of Patikul, Sulu.
“Our troops are on standby. We are ready to move anytime. We are monitoring. We know exactly where they are, where (they’re) moving. So if there’s an order to rescue, then we will do our part,” he claimed.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ),which represents more than 600,000 journalists in 31 countries, last week joined its affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), in expressing concern for the safety of a foreign television reporter and his two Filipino crew members.
In 2008, an ABS-CBN crew led by TV reporter Ces Drilon was held for a week by Abu Sayyaf rebels. At some points in their captivity, they were hogtied and threatened with beheading, the cameramen in Drilon’s team later reported.
Originally posted: 6:45 pm | Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
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