ZAMBOANGA CITY – A MONTH under captivity now and with negotiations for their freedom going nowhere, military action is now being considered as an option to free two humanitarian aid workers held by kidnappers in Basilan, a provincial official has said.
This possibility has emerged after negotiators failed to have the victims, Merlie Mendoza and Esperancita Hupida, freed, said Vice Governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul, official negotiator of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee.
“We are going nowhere here. The kidnappers are just playing around with peoples’ emotions and our laws,” Sakalahul said in a phone interview.
Hupida, a program coordinator of the Nagdilaab Foundation Inc. based in Basilan, and Merlie Mendoza, an expert on rehabilitation of war-torn areas in Mindanao, were kidnapped in Tipo-tipo town on September 15.
Sakalahul admitted that he has become tired of the turn of events, with “lots of players around wanting to help.”
“The kidnappers are becoming bolder to the point of demanding ransom that is so high,” he said.
The military option, the vice governor said, has been discussed with Jun Mendoza, the victim’s brother, who said he was not yet ready for it.
“He fears for his sister’s life. We are all worried, and for as long as this will go on, there’s a chance that the kidnappers will harm their captives,” Sakalahul said.
He added that if the victims’ families chose not to resort to a military solution, “we are not going to pursue it.”
Nagdilaab Foundation president Father Angel Calvo confirmed having received recently a call from Hupida, “pleading for help.”
“She sounded so weak. The abductors insist on their monetary demands,” Calvo said.
Sakalahul said the kidnappers have demanded P5 million in exchange for Hupida’s freedom alone.