More than P100 million in ransom was allegedly paid for the release of Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad from the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group, or ASG, over the weekend, according to sources of The Star (PhilStar).
Because of Malacanang’s no-ransom stance where kidnap ransom is concerned, family and friends of the Norwegian hostage reportedly raised the amount. Ambassador Erik Forner of Norway was said to have flown in to Davao after expecting Sekkingstad’s release.
“I would like to reiterate that the government maintains the no-ransom policy,” Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Secretary said yesterday. However, “if a third party or the family gives ransom, we do not know,” he told government radio station dzRB.
The ASG released Sekkingstad last Saturday after having been held hostage for about a year. He was kidnapped along with three other tourists—John Ridsel and Robert Hall—who were Canadians and who both were beheaded after the P300-million ransom for their release reportedly remained unpaid. A Filipina with the tourists, Marites Flor, was however released in June. Heavily armed men had taken the four hostage while staying at a yacht club in Samal, the Island Garden City, in Davao City in September 21 last year. They were brought to Sulu as captives.
Reports said that the ASG turned over Sekkingstad last Friday night at around 8:30 in the evening. They released him to Commander Tahil Sali of the Moro National Liberation Front in Barangay Buanza, Indanan.
After staying overnight in Barangay Kagay with MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, the latter then turned over the hostage to the government. “Chairman Misuari volunteered to host his stay due to heavy rains and nightfall,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said. “Men of Misuari, former governor Sakur Tan, and other volunteers helped in the release,” he added.
The MNLF has agreed to a peace settlement with the government.
President Duterte then finally met Sekkingstad at the Matina Enclaves Residences located in Davao City.
Sekkingstad had only one word to describe his captivity: “devastating.” He was kept in amid the wild jungles of Sulu. His backpack had a bullet hole, a remembrance from his ordeal. Aside from the terror of being told by the ASG that he would be next in line for beheading, he said he went through more than a dozen skirmishes between the military and his captors.
In one of those encounters, a bullet hit his army-style backpack. “We were treated like slaves,” Sekkingstad said, adding that at one time his captors actually numbered about 300 or more.