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RM2.2m ransom paid: Filipina

Published on: Monday, June 16, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: A ransom was paid to free a Chinese kidnap victim who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group in a cross-border raid from Malaysia to southern Philippines in April, the other victim, Filipina Mercelita Dayawan, said.

In a report by the Bombo Radyo Network on Sunday, Dayawan said the family of the Chinese kidnap victim, Gao Hua Yan, paid 300 million pesos (RM2,208,510) to Abu Sayyaf and this amount was reduced from the original demand of 500 million pesos after negotiations with the relatives.

The Philippines, as well as the Government of Malaysia, maintained that they had not paid a ransom to Abu Sayyaf for the release of Gao, 29, and Dayawan.

Dayawan was an employee of the Singamata Adventures Reef and Resort in Semporna, while Gao was on vacation when militants raided the resort on April 2.

In the Bombo Radyo interview, Dayawan said she could not believe that Gao's family did not pay a ransom to the Abu Sayyaf because the militants would often mention the matter about the demand. Gao is from Shanghai.

The victims were released by Abu Sayyaf in Sulu on May 30, and Dayawan, a mother of two, returned to her family on Saturday in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Dayawan said the Abu Sayyaf, who had held them captive at a remote area in the Indanan town in Sulu, treated them well and often fed them with fried chicken.

She said that on April 8 when Gao turned 29, their captors even set up a small banquet to celebrate the occasion.

Dayawan said she told her captors early on that her family could not afford to pay a ransom for her as they are poor.

She was told that they had to take her with them anyway because Gao needed someone to care for her during their captivity.

Dayawan said throughout the two months that they were together, a special bond of friendship had developed between her and the Chinese national.

Most of the time, she would serve as translator for Gao.

"I had no choice, I was the only one who could communicate between them," she said while pointing out that she spoke in Filipino to the Abu Sayyaf and in English with Gao.

The Abu Sayyaf have been operating between Malaysia and the Philippines for nearly two decades.

They have targeted mostly wealthy Western and Asian nationals aside from Filipino businessmen for kidnappings.

The Abu Sayyaf were initially associated with al-Qaeda and the Southeast Asian-based pan-Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah, but recent security findings showed that they are capable of complex, highly-coordinated operations on their own.