A birthday tale: On the road and Ro-Ro with my kidnappers
Businesswoman Sally Chua marked her 51st birthday on Friday relishing a most precious gift: Surviving a six-day ordeal at the hands of kidnappers and seeing some of them killed by the police.
“This is the most memorable birthday in my life,” Chua said in a press conference at Camp Crame, speaking from behind a shawl as she recounted her long ride of terror that began in her Quezon City office and ended, hundreds of kilometers away, in the streets of Davao City.
Held hostage initially for P100 million, she was taken by her abductors on a trip over land and sea, including an hour-long crawl on the oft-congested Edsa, where she said policemen could have easily caught up with the kidnappers.
According to the Philippine National Police, a group of men arrived at Chua’s office around 4 p.m. on July 5 pretending to inquire about the heavy equipment her company sells.
The men then seized and blindfolded her while tying up her two secretaries, two messengers and a security guard. They also took the employees’ cell phones, the guard’s .38-cal. revolver and some cash.
After forcing her into an SUV with a temporary license plate (FBI-1238), the abductors were first slowed down by Metro Manila’s notorious traffic jams. “I was angry because we were on Edsa for an hour because of traffic and no one was going after us. If we had been pursued, for sure (authorities) would have caught up with us,” she recalled.
From Edsa, they reached South Superhighway where she said they came within view of a police checkpoint. As the SUV approached it, the kidnappers had their M-16 rifles ready for a gunfight—but the vehicle went through unchecked.
“We could have all been killed,” Chua said in Filipino.
Ten hours later, they were already somewhere in Albay province, where they stayed until July 7, Sunday. They moved from one place to another in Albay to avoid detection.
On Monday, they boarded a roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry to Leyte province. The kidnappers apparently had contacts at the port because they made calls to someone who allowed their vehicle on the vessel without them presenting proper registration papers.
From Leyte, the group originally wanted to go to Mindoro but decided to head south. Up to this point, the kidnappers had been demanding P100 million for her release.
But Chua said she negotiated until they agreed at P15 million. They went to a bank in Butuan City where she was able to withdraw some money, but she told them the bank had insufficient funds to give the whole amount.
Chua, who said she tried her best to appear “cooperative,” suggested that they get the balance from a bank in Davao City and that from there they could easily take a flight back to Metro Manila.
They believed her.
On Thursday, three of the kidnappers lay dead on the pavement after what Davao authorities called a shoot-out with the police, which erupted while they were waiting for Chua to come out of an Allied Bank branch on Recto Avenue with the rest of the ransom money.
Two other gang members escaped while their alleged leader, Ramil Macamay, 35, was arrested in a joint operation by PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group and the Davao police.
When she went missing, Chua’s family sought the help of authorities through the group Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order.
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