Senior Inspector Conrad Gutierrez, the police chief of Patikul town, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that independent film makers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, along with 19 other locals, left Jolo on June 20 and went to the village of Danag in Patikul.
“Then, they stayed overnight in (Barangay) Sinumaan,” a known lair of the bandit group, he said.
“In fact, security forces don’t go there without ample security,” Gutierrez said.
On their way back to Jolo on Saturday, the Bansils were abducted in the village of Liang, also in Patikul, Gutierrez said.
Although the sisters were with 19 other companions, Gutierrez said
“During the abduction, only the Bansil sisters were taken.”
He said the Bansil sisters stayed in the house of “Sultan Mauzidin Bantilan” in Jolo.
“They were doing some kind of a documentary report about the Sultanate of Sulu,” he said.
Gutierrez said they have talked to Sultan Bantilan, who had asked the local government, the police and military “to maintain distance first while they are trying to negotiate for safe release of the two ladies.”
“But so far they (Bantilan) are still on the stage of trying to determine the location of the captors,” he added.
When news about the abduction happened, Len Manriquez of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network called Nadjoua’s mobile phone. A certain Yasir Rajim of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam answered the call and said he was Nadjoua’ contact in Sulu.
Manriquez said Rajim narrated the events leading up to the kidnapping: “On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI). On Friday morning they went to Sinumaan, stayed overnight in the area to take some shots of the sunrise. On Saturday they started to take off to Jolo, at about 10 a.m., they were kidnapped in Liang, Patikul. They were on board a jeepney and the road was blocked by armed men.”
Manriquez said Rajim claimed that they were not able to stop the kidnappers, who were armed, from taking the sisters.
“He also said that they insisted to be taken as well but the kidnappers only wanted to take the two ladies,” Manriquez said.
It was not, however, clear why Nadjoua’s mobile phone was with Rajim.
As far as the Sultanate of Sulu under the leadership of Kiram, there is no such thing as Mauzidin Bantilan that exists today.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the Sultanate of Sulu told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that Mauzidin Bantilan “is one of the names of the sultans way back 17th century.”
“Bantilan means caretaker or officer-in-charge. Right now we don’t have a caretaker,” he said.
Idjirani also said that he had no idea if the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam really existed in Sulu.
Octavio Dinampo, a professor of the Western Mindanao University and himself a former kidnap victim, said the name Mauzidin Bantilan might have been used by the kidnappers to confuse the authorities.
Mauzidin Bantilan is a title used by one of the adopted claimants which is known in the community as a distant relative of the Kirams, according to Dinampo.
Dinampo said the Bansil sisters might have been snatched by members of the “Lucky 9,” a group of “Abu Sayyaf orphans and drug addicts.”
“That Rajim could be behind the abduction. But what we gathered is that they (kidnappers) were really members of the Lucky 9,” Dinampo said.
Meanwhile, Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told reporters here that local government units must be made accountable for any kidnapping or abduction that would happen in their respective localities.
“Kailangan mapanagutan nila kung sakaling may nangyaring ganito (They should take responsibility if something like this happens),” Hataman said.
But Hataman said there must be a region wide security conference involving various state forces under the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
He said “mapping will also be undertaken during the participatory security conference to determine which towns or municipalities the kidnappings transpire, which towns or provinces captives are brought or kept while negotiations are made.”
“Dapat may accountability na itong mga barangay officials sa area. They know the place and the people, so we will look into this matter to prevent this kind of incident from happening in the future,” he said.