ZAMBOANGA CITY—A day before they were abducted in Patikul town, Sulu, the Bansil sisters spent the night in Mount Sinumaan, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group.
Senior Insp. Conrad Gutierrez, police chief of Patikul, told the Inquirer that independent filmmakers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, along with 19 other local residents, left Jolo town on June 20 for Barangay (village) Danag in Patikul.
“Then they stayed overnight in Sinumaan,” Gutierrez said, adding that the barangay is a known lair of the bandit group.
“In fact, security forces don’t go there without ample security,” he said.
On their way back to Jolo on Saturday, the Bansils were abducted in the village of Liang, also in Patikul.
Although other people were with them, Gutierrez said “only the Bansil sisters were taken” by suspected Abu Sayyaf members.
He said the 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 the police had 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 the safe release of the two women.”
“But so far, … [Bantilan is] 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 and said he was Nadjoua’s contact in Sulu.
Manriquez said Rajim narrated the events leading to the kidnapping:
“On Thursday, they arrived in Jolo and were hosted by the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam. 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 they were not able to stop the kidnappers who were armed.
“He also said they insisted to be taken as well, but the kidnappers only wanted to take the two ladies,” he 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 is concerned, Mauzidin Bantilan is nonexistent.
Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of the sultanate, told the Inquirer by phone in Manila 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 said he had no idea if the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam really exists in Sulu.
Octavio Dinampo, a professor of 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, he said.
Dinampo said the Bansil sisters might have been abducted by members of the “Lucky 9,” a group of “Abu Sayyaf orphans and drug addicts.”
“That certain Rajim could be behind the abduction. But what we gathered is that they (kidnappers) were really members of the Lucky 9,” he said.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told reporters here that local government units must be made accountable for any crime, particularly kidnapping or abduction, that happens in their localities.
But Hataman said a regionwide security conference involving various state forces under the military’s Western Mindanao Command must be held.
“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,” he said.
“Barangay officials should also be held accountable. 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.