|'Robot' to surrender
expected to clear Estrada in hostage ransom yarn
By Jeannette Andrade and Johnna Villaviray
ONE of the high
profile chieftains of the Abu Sayyaf is giving up before Christmas and is expected to give
his side on allegations that President Estrada and a key aide pocketed part of the ransom
paid for the release of foreign hostages held by the bandits for months on Jolo island, a
lawyer said yesterday.
alias Commander Robot, has sent surrender feelers and has asked arrangements for his
safety, said Oliver Lozano, who months back introduced himself as the lawyer for the
Lozano said the
ASG leader wants to concede so he can finally live peacefully.
German Embassy said it does not see any problem with the plan of Mr. Estrada and his
secretary for flagship projects, Roberto Aventajado, suing the weekly German magazine Der
Spiegel for printing false information.
The embassy issued
the statement in reaction to the threat of Mr. Estrada and Aventajado to file a libel suit
against the German magazine.
Affairs department yesterday demanded an apology either from the magazine, or from the
Bundesnachrichtendiest (BND) or the German secret service, for running the articles on the
ransom kickbacks issue.
Franklin Ebdalin also said that Mr. Estradas lawyers should determine where to file
the lawsuit as the magazine may not have a representative here.
magazines latest issue carried articles accusing the Chief Executive and Aventajado,
who led the governments negotiating team for the release of the foreign hostages, of
receiving 40 percent of the $20-million ransom provided for the freedom of the hostages,
including several Germans.
The magazine said
10 percent of the money was pocketed by Aventajado and that it based its stories on taped
satellite telephone conversations between Aventajado and the bandit.
Ebdalin said the
satellite conversations between Aventajado and Andang were taped with the knowledge
and consent of Aventajado, whose office even provided translations of parts of the
discussions conducted in Tagalog and Tausug.
purpose of (Aventajado) was to engage in illegal activity, then the talks would not have
been revealed to the German officials, much less taped, he said.
Biazon and Raul Roco yesterday filed resolution urging a Senate inquiry into the latest
bombshell against the embattled President, now facing an impeachment trial for alleged
They said the
allegations further darkened the countrys image in the international
acknowledged the possible negative impact on the country of the Der Spiegel charges, did
not hide its suspicions that the publication of the story on the alleged ransom kickbacks
was designed to further embarrass Mr. Estrada.
Ricardo Puno said an international public relations company had hand in the publication in
Der Spiegel of the articles and that this was timed with the ongoing trial of the
President before the Senate impeachment tribunal.
He said the
allegations in the articles of the German magazine were but a rehash of earlier news
articles on the same matter carried by local and foreign publications, including Asiaweek.
Lozano denied on
nationwide radio that there was a shoot-to-kill order against his client,
Andang, saying that what was issued against the bandit was an arrest warrant.
He said he would
invoke this warrant to arrange the surrender of the bandit, who is believed to be still in
hiding in the hinterlands of Jolo.
The faction of
Andang held the bulk of the 21 mostly foreign hostages the bandits seized in April from a
resort island in Malaysia, and got $15 million for the release of the captives.
Lozano said if
allowed to surrender, the bandit would be able to clear Mr. Estrada and Aventajado from
allegations they received kickbacks from the ransom paid mostly by the Libyan government
for the release of the Abu Sayyaf hostages.
Press Attache Earnst Schwering said they find it reasonable for Malacañang to push
through with plans to sue the German magazine for libel.
they believe that they have been wronged, then by all means, sue. There is nothing wrong
with that, Schwering said, stressing that while Berlin is all for press
freedom, this freedom is not absolute and should not be abused by parties for their own
The German government is not in anyway involved in the (publication) of Der Spiegel,
its a private company.
Resolution No. 904, Biazon and Roco stressed on the need for an inquiry into the Der
Spiegels accusations as this has further darkened our international image and
reputation and that of the leadership even more disastrously in Western Europe and the
rest of the world.
pressed for an immediate review of governments no-ransom policy in
dealing with kidnappers and terrorists, and other security-related policies to avert a
repetition of a similar shameful incident in the future.
directed the Senate committee on national defense and security to conduct the
investigation in aid of legislation.
vehemently denied the Der Spiegel articles.
fight this, Aventajado said Monday. If there was ransom, definitely I had no
cut. Now if they have proof, let them bring it out because I am sure they cannot bring out
anything because I did not do it.
What I know is they are damaging my integrity and my reputation. I have to protect
the governments policy is not to pay ransom to hostage-takers, but that some
people had contact with the Abu Sayyaf bandits and may have paid money directly to
Der Spiegel said
German intelligence agents discovered the alleged ransom skimming by listening in
satellite telephone conversations with the hostages.
Puno said Mr.
Estrada was really upset by the report and asked lawyers to study a possible
libel suit against the magazine.
that if legal action is warranted ... hell do so, Puno said. He feels
that this is a false report given publicity unduly in Germany quoting some unnamed
so-called German secret service sources.
Puno said the
timing of the Der Spiegel report indicated its intent was to further embarrass the
President and maybe even somehow influence the impeachment trial Mr. Estrada is
facing on charges of bribery and corruption.
Puno said Mr.
Estrada instructed him to issue a vehement denial that the President received some of the
Secretary said the magazine should produce the tape recording of the hostage negotiations
on which it said its report was based.
If not, an
apology is due from Der Spiegel magazine, which is a confirmed ransom giver in itself
since it admitted that it had to pay ransom for the release of its own reporter, he
The magazine paid
an undisclosed ransom to the Abu Sayyaf for the release of one of its reporters who was
held by the rebels.
Mr. Estrada has
asked the Philippine Embassy in Germany to obtain information about the German secret
services tape recording, Puno said.
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