Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang yesterday disputed claims of the Abu Sayyaf regarding ransom money paid to the bandit group, saying this was likely counterfeit.
“I have ordered an investigation into this matter because the Abu Sayyaf could just be trying to create confusion to mislead the general public to believe that ransom was indeed paid,” Catapang said.
Abu Sayyaf spokesman Muamar Askali released a video clip on Facebook showing what they claimed to be the P250-million ransom paid to them in exchange for the freedom of German couple Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen last Oct. 17.
The video showed the Abu Sayyaf piling bundles of P1,000 bills in five stacks, neatly wrapped with transparent plastic, each stack estimated to be P1 million. The money was placed on top of a large black plastic bag.
“From what we saw on the video is not true. It might be the Abu Sayyaf is showing off the supposed ransom money that are a bunch of bogus bills,” Catapang said.
Catapang, currently in Brunei on an official trip, also stressed the need for a “whole of nation approach” in addressing the Abu Sayyaf menace in the areas of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (Zambasulta).
“There should be social pressure to ask the people of Western Mindanao to put a stop to the kidnapping and change the image of Western Mindanao from a kidnapping area into an area of peace and prosperity,” he said.
For the AFP, Catapang said the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, as well as the Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police (PNP), are now jointly pursuing a combined Abu Sayyaf force of an estimated 400 gunmen in the Zambasulta area.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, also doubted Askali’s claims of ransom money.
If it were true, Cabanoc admitted this would be a big concern for the military.
“We are also concerned with this, if ever ransom was really paid. They could use that in acquiring firearms,” he said.
Cabunoc, however, stressed the possibility the mound of cash shown by Askali could be fake, or someone outside of the military could have devised ways to deceive the kidnappers by delivering counterfeit bills to secure the release of the German hostages. – With Roel Pareño