Philippine security forces rescued on Wednesday a public school teacher employed under a U.S.-funded program, about two weeks after she was abducted in the southern province of Sulu.
Rosina Singua was seized on Sept. 28 shortly after attending a friend’s wedding at a Catholic church in Jolo, Sulu’s provincial capital and a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf militants who are known for their kidnap-for-ransom activities.
Singua, a 58-year-old Filipina, works as a teacher at the Culianan Learning Center E-Impact, a special school funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in the city of Zamboanga.
“She was rescued at 6 a.m. in a local hotel in downtown Jolo,” Col. Pablo Labra, commander of the provincial police force, told reporters, referring to Singua.
One of the suspects, a woman, received the ransom that was carried by Soraya Bantongan, Singua’s daughter. After the payoff was completed, Bantongan was instructed to fetch her mother at the hotel, officials said.
Maj. Arvin John Encinas, spokesman for the army’s Western Mindanao Command, said the victim was in a state of shock when she was airlifted to a military hospital.
The kidnappers initially demanded 10 million pesos (U.S. $194,000), but agreed to lower the ransom to 200,000 pesos ($3,876), officials said.
Labra said a separate team tailed and arrested the woman who received the ransom while she was waiting for a bus to Indanan town, a known Abu Sayyaf territory outside of Jolo. He did not say if the ransom payment was recovered.
The arrested suspect was identified as Nurina Jura, 22, a native of Jolo. Police were trying to determine if she had links with Abu Sayyaf.
Another suspect identified as Nurjia Asakil, was arrested in a follow-up raid, police said.
Couple still missing
Encinas said troops did not know the whereabouts of British national Allan Arthur Hyrons, 70, and his Filipina wife, Wilma Paglinawan, who were abducted by unidentified gunmen on Oct. 4.
While Abu Sayyaf members are on top of the list of suspects, it is unusual for them to keep quiet days into a high-profile kidnapping, security experts said.
Encinas said a body was retrieved in a coastal area on the neighboring island of Basilan on Tuesday, although authorities could not immediately identify the remains.
“A headless female cadaver with severed arms and legs was fished out last night off the town of Lantawan in Basilan,” Encinas told BenarNews. “Investigators were still examining and have collected specimens for DNA testing.”
Authorities could not determine if the couple were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf or allied groups, he said.
“We have received plenty of information, but it has all been misleading,” Encinas said without elaborating.
Jeoffrey Maitem and Mark Navales in Cotabato City, Philippines, contributed to this report.