• The Abu Sayyaf released four Malaysian hostages
• The military has yet to confirm if ransom money was paid for the captives’ release
• An anti-kidnapping activist said local communities pressured the Abu Sayyaf into releasing the Malaysians
The dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group released on Tuesday morning, June 7, four Malaysian tugboat crew members they abducted off the high seas of Sempornah, Sabah over two months ago, a spokesman for the Philippine military confirmed.
Major Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command, confirmed that the four Malaysians, identified as brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Wong Teck Chii, 29; their cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21; and Wong Hung Sing, 34, were released by the Abu Sayyaf.
“We have yet to confirm whether ransom money was paid in exchange for the safe release of the victims,” Tan said.
Meanwhile, a Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist claimed that the notorious group released their Malaysian hostages due to pressures exerted by local communities, who are struggling from the skyrocketing prices of commodities when Malaysia closed its border following the abductions.
The closure of the border immediately halted the trans-shipment trade of petroleum and gas products from Sabah to the southern Philippines.
An article published by The Malay Mail Online dated June 9, 2016, said that according to anti-kidnapping activist Prof. Octavio Dinampo, local communities have been pressuring the gunmen to release their Malaysian captives.
“Octavio said prices of commodities from rice to fuel more than doubled after the decades-old barter trade was stopped on April 6, and the local community leaders had started pressuring the gunmen to hand over the hostages,” the article said.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreign and local hostages, including a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipina kidnapped from a resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September last year.