August 28, 2001, Inquirer, Kidnap victim Reghis Romero to testify in Basilan probe, by Rocky Nazareno, Jonathan F. Ma and Julie Alipala-Inot,
Posted: 11:31 PM (Manila Time)
BUSINESSMAN Reghis Romero II will testify Wednesday in the House investigation into the alleged collusion between the military and the Abu Sayyaf bandits, Rep. Prospero Pichay said.
The chair of the House committee on national defense said Romero had personally called him twice to confirm his attendance.
The committee had sent out "invitations" to Romero, his friend, Ma. Rhiza Santos Rodriguez, and 9-year-old RJ Recio to attend the hearing.
The three are expected to shed light on allegations that they did not escape from their Abu Sayyaf captors but were set free after paying 27 million pesos in ransom.
Also invited to the probe are Basilan Gov. Wahab Akbar and Lamitan Mayor Inocente Ramos.
Pichay earlier revealed that two civilian witnesses have come forward saying Akbar and Ramos were involved in the alleged ransom pay-off that may have allowed the Abu Sayyaf to escape a military cordon on June 2.
The two witnesses will also be testifying Wednesday.
From Zamboanga City, Akbar angrily denied on Tuesday the allegations and challenged his accusers to show proof.
"That's absurd; that's crazy. (They have) to prove their accusations or else we will see each other in court as soon as this hearing ends," Akbar told the INQUIRER.
The two witnesses' testimony would tend to corroborate a statement made by Abu Sabaya, the bandit group's spokesperson, implicating Akbar.
Sabaya said during a radio interview that a follower of Akbar had negotiated with the group for the Abu Sayyaf's escape from the besieged Lamitan hospital in exchange for cash.
Akbar said Sabaya was a liar and that the Abu Sayyaf were making stories against him.
Ramos made a similar denial saying he would never compromise the safety of his constituents just so he could make some money.
"It's a lie, my conscience is clear and that is what I am going to prove to the committee," he said.
The two witnesses claimed that they saw Akbar and Ramos entering the compound shortly before Romero and two other hostages were freed before 11 a.m. on June 2.
Maj. Eliseo Campued, Capt. Hubert Acierto and Capt. Nicolas Quemado said they were also preparing to file libel charges against Fr. Cirilo Nacorda and 20 witnesses.
The INQUIRER is also being named in the suit.
"Basically our focus is on Nacorda, his witnesses and the editor of the newspaper," Quemado said.
It will be the third hearing that the House committee on national defense will be conducting on the controversy after holding several sessions in Lamitan and Isabela, Basilan, last weekend.
The probe is looking into allegations by Nacorda and other Lamitan residents that some military officers had allowed trapped Abu Sayyaf bandits to escape from the Dr. Jose Ma. Torres Memorial Foundation hospital on June 2 in exchange for money. Reports from Rocky Nazareno, Jonathan F. Ma and Julie Alipala-Inot