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Villagers force Abus to free midwife

ZAMBOANGA CITY—Community pressure, more than anything else, prompted members of the Abu Sayyaf yesterday to release the midwife they snatched in Indanan, Sulu, in August, authorities said.

But a military commander insisted that Evangeline Taverisma was not released but had been rescued.

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Chief Supt. Bienvenido Latag, police chief for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said state security forces and local government officials also played a role in “forc(ing) the suspects to release the kidnap victim.”

Latag would not say what the community exactly did, but a source, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the information he had provided, said local officials “took hold” of the abductors’ families.

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“They were warned their family members will be placed under government custody until the midwife had been released,” the source said.

Latag said the release of Taverisma, 55, was foreseen when Indanan Mayor Sarripuddin Jikiri, who heads the Municipal Crisis Management Committee, managed to establish her exact location.

“At first, they tried to negotiate and convince the captors to release the  poor old woman, who is suffering from hearing problems, but the captors reportedly ignored the mayor’s plea,” Latag said.

Villagers’ action

He said villagers came into the picture and with backing from policemen led by Insp. Nasruddin Jailani, they were able to pressure the kidnappers into releasing Taverisma.

He said that around 5:20 a.m. yesterday, Taverisma walked out of captivity and was freed in Barangay Lanao Dakulah in Parang town.

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Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marine operations of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the midwife was rescued by policemen and soldiers.

Because she was rescued, no ransom was paid to the kidnappers,” Cenabre said.

He said Taverisma was undergoing debriefing by authorities.

Cenabre said the midwife was seized by the group of Nasir Timbang, an Abu Sayyaf “sub-leader” based in Sulu and a certain Palo, an alleged former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Taverisma was on her way home from the Rural Health Unit in Barangay Tagbak in Indanan when armed men took her.

Her abduction triggered an uproar among health workers in the ARMM, who had already been complaining of dangers in their work places. These included the rape of a volunteer nurse in Maguindanao and the killing of a nutritionist in Tawi-Tawi.

Protest plan

In late August, ARMM health workers threatened to stop providing services to the region’s residents unless Taverisma was released and those involved in the other two cases were arrested. They later reconsidered that decision and held prayer rallies instead.

When the Abu Sayyaf still declined to release the midwife, ARMM health workers threatened to go on a sit-down strike anew. The protest action was supposed to be held today.

Dr. Kadil Sinolinding, ARMM health chief, said Taverisma’s release called for a celebration.

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TAGS: abu sayyaf, Crime, Kidnapping
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