“Like a slave” was how Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad described his almost one year in captivity in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza said Kjartan told him that there was not a single day that the Norwegian had dreamt of getting out from the clutches of his captors.
He said that Sekkingstad was not fed intentionally by the Abu Sayyaf to weaken him so he could not escape.
Thus, Dureza said, September 17 was a “final liberation” for Sekkingstad.
Dureza said they worked for the release of the four kidnap victims since day one of their capture on September 21, 2015. He lamented that of the four only two survived — Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor.
Robert Hall and Dureza’s personal friend John Ridsdel were beheaded by the bandits after the ransom demand was not met. The kidnappers demanded a P300 million ransom for each of the victims.
Dureza revealed that Ridsdel’s family offered money in exchange for his friend’s liberty. But the Abu Sayyaf did not accept it is was way below what they demanded.
Thus, Dureza said, he is not keen on believing rumors that the family of Sekkingstad paid P30 million ransom for the Norwegian’s liberty. The secretary revealed that the rumored ransom of Sekkingstad was just half the amount the Ridsdel family earlier offered but was not accepted by the ASG.
Dureza theorized that the real reason of Sekkingstad’s release was because the of the intense military operation against the ASG.
“Because of the military operation the ASG have to let go of their “baggage” (hostages) but also there maybe are other factors,” Dureza said.
Sekkingstad earlier admitted when interviewed immediately after his release that they have experienced numerous firefights between the ASG and the government forces. The kidnap victim said that one bullet even landed inside his backpack which he is keeping as a memento.
Dureza said that when he first met Sekkingstad, his only worldly possession was a backpack with an empty water jug and that the Norwegian was holding on to it like a treasured item.
Dureza said Sekkingstad would be traveling back to Norway but the Norwegian promised to return to Davao which he called home for the past 7 years.
The recently-installed farmers inside the Lapanday-controlled banana plantation in Tagum City, Davao del Norte are now crying harassment from guards allegedly hired by the Lorenzo-owned company whose three facilities were attacked by the New People’s Army rebels last month.
The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) claimed that, over the weekend, Lapanday guards have started fencing some of the 154-hectares area given to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
Nante Mantos of UMA said that three blocks of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries’s area consist of about 20 hectares were fenced off by Lapanday guards since Saturday evening.
MARBAI spokesperson Antonio Tuyac said that when they demanded the guards to leave, the guards would say, “You are not the ones who hired us. Our employers Lapanday ordered us to stay here.”
Company guards also brandish their firearms when MARBAI members question their presence.
Last May 18, DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano led the installation of 159 farmers inside the Lapanday-controlled banana plantation in Purok San Isidro, Barangay Madaum.
The 159 farmers were allotted with 145 hectares of land by the government thru the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. But so far only 108 hectares have been made available by Lapanday as the remaining 37 hectares are still being contested.
On the same day of the installation, Lapanday Foods Corporation filed graft charges against Sec. Mariano before the Ombudsman.
Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao meanwhile belittled the graft case filed by Lapanday Foods Corp.
“It is a desperate measure, as clearly, Lapanday is already isolated, they are seeking an ally with the Office of the Ombudsman, and we urge them, especially Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, not to allow the institution to be used as an instrument for the feudal interest of the Lorenzo family,” Casilao said in a press statement.
In a released statement, Lapanday maintains that it owns the fruits coming from the San Isidro area despite the reentry of former members of the cooperative it is in contract with.
The Company stressed that its contract with the Hijo Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (HEARBCO-1) shall continue.
“The reentry of its former members into the farm does not modify the existing agreement where HEARBCO- 1 is obligated to deliver and sell the fruits from the whole plantation to Lapanday,” Lapanday stated.
Lapanday said that it shall take all necessary steps for its contract
with HEARBCO-1 to be strictly enforced and complied with. The company warned that it shall file criminal and civil cases against any person or entity who shall interfere with the agreement.