August 26, 2001, Inquirer, Solons summon 2 freed Abu hostages, by Julie S. Alipala-Inot, Inquirer News Service,
Posted: 11:24 PM (Manila Time)
ISABELA CITY--Businessman Reghis Romero II and girlfriend Ma. Rhiza Santos Rodriguez, two of the first freed Dos Palmas hostages, have been summoned to a congressional inquiry to shed light on the alleged collusion between the Abu Sayyaf and certain military officers.
The two will be asked to "clarify reports that millions of pesos changed hands before their escape in Lamitan" in June, said Rep. Prospero Pichay, head of the committee conducting the inquiry into allegations by Fr. Cirilo Nacorda that five officers took bribes from the Abu Sayyaf.
The announcement came as the Armed Forces fended off another accusation and denied it was selling arms to the Abu Sayyaf, a claim made by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"We know for a fact that they (Abu Sayyaf) are getting firearms from the military. They buy these from the Southcom (Southern Command)," MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu told reporters Sunday in a telephone conference call.
"That's a fact. The military, particularly the Southern Command, has been selling firearms to the bandits since 1992," Kabalu said.
He said the proof was the recoilless rifles used by the Abu Sayyaf, which were only in the military's armory.
The military moved quickly to rebuff the accusations. "He is a rebel propagandist so I don't think his statements should be given any importance," military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said.
"Such statements are expected of him, being an enemy of the state," Adan added.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Diomedio Villanueva said that the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, who still hold 18 hostages, have "benefited from these allegations."
Adan said it was the 12,500-member MILF that was coddling the Abu Sayyaf, giving them sanctuary when attacked by the military in Basilan.
Nacorda has also testified that the kidnappers use guns marked with a military insignia.
The officers denied the allegations and in turn suggested that Nacorda was in league with the gunmen, sparking outrage among bishops.
"Do not divert the issue. What they should do is investigate those accused by Father Nacorda," said Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
He said the bishops had carried out their own investigation of Nacorda, 44, who was held for several months by the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in 1994.
"In the end, we concluded that he was very sincere in his statements and allegations."
In its second public hearing at the Basilan State College here on Saturday, the House national defense committee resolved to invite Romero to the third hearing, which will be held in Manila on Wednesday.
A press release from Pichay's office said Reghis’ "companion" would also be asked to testify.