August 11, 2001, Inquirer, 3 Abu Sayyaf hostages free, by Julie Alipala-Inot, Inquirer News Service,
Posted: 10:48 PM (Manila Time)
Free at last
ISABELA CITY -- Three farmer-workers seized by the Abu Sayyaf in June from the Golden Harvest Plantation in Lantawan town escaped from their captors Friday in Barangay Lumbang here.
But Col. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., chief of the 103rd Army Brigade, said military pressure forced the bandits to free Vicente Perillo Sr. and his sons Vicente Jr. and Fernando.
Esperon said the bandits, supposedly led by Commanders Hamsiraji Sali and Isnilon Hapilon, clashed with soldiers of the 10th Infantry Battalion late Friday morning.
Vicente Sr. acknowledged that the clash provided him and his sons the opportunity to escape from a group led by Sali.
With the Perillos no longer captives, the Abu Sayyaf is now holding 18 hostages.
“I grabbed my two sons,” Vicente Sr. said in Filipino. "We hid behind boulders. We stayed overnight at the clash site, but we were separated from our companions."
He named the three other captives who were with them as Faizal Benasing, Reynaldo Ariston and Ruben Valdesamor Jr.
Vicente Sr. said he and the other captives were about to have lunch when they heard the sound of gunfire.
"Kanya-kanya kami ng takbuhan (We fled separately)," he said.
The Perillos are being debriefed at the 24th Special Forces detachment in Lumbang.
There are varying accounts of the circumstances of the Perillos’ freedom. The Associated Press quoted Esperon, commander of Task Group Thunder, as saying that the Perillos were rescued around 6 a.m. yesterday following three separate clashes between the troops and the bandits until late Friday night.
But an initial report by Basilan military spokesperson Maj. Alberto Gepilano said the three men were rescued late Friday by Task Group Lightning, the second of three military task forces formed to rescue the hostages, AP said.
According to reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo in Manila, the Perillos were rescued by soldiers of the 10th Infantry Battalion around 10:55 p.m. Friday in Barangay Upper Mangas in Lantawan.
The reports said that the soldiers and the bandits were earlier engaged in a fierce firefight but that the bandits, supposedly led by Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Sabaya, withdrew.
One soldier, Cpl. Radji Raini, was reported injured.
Lt. Col. Danilo Servando, spokesperson of the Armed Forces' Southern Command, said the "rescue" of the Perillos showed that "the military is very serious in its mission to rescue the hostages and finish off the bandits."
Servando said the clash also resulted in the death of "many" of the bandits. He said the government side reported no casualties.