Japanese trader, Filipinos freed; two abductors killed

MANILA — A Japanese trader and three others who were abducted by six armed men at a southern Philippine beach resort were rescued June 16 by government troops, officials said.

Police Chief Inspector Noel Rosales said the four were abandoned by their abductors after a brief firefight with government troops in a mountainous area in the town of Glan in Sarangani province. Police said the four, along with a government engineer, were partying June 15 at the Celebes Beach resort in Sarangani’s Taluya village when six armed men came in a motorboat and tried to rob them.

The 41-year-old engineer fought back and was shot to death by the men, who then abducted his 10-year-old son, a Japanese businessman identified as Kenichi Takayama, and two women. Takayama’s hometown was not immediately available but he reportedly lives in General Santos, a city more than 30 km north of the resort. Police said they suspect either bandits or Muslim guerrillas from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which controls many areas of Sarangani province.

Rodrigo Gabay, a police official, said the armed men forced the four into their boat and were pursued by police. Shortly before reaching a coastal village late June 15, the boat’s engine failed and it had to be pushed ashore, allowing police to close in, he said. Inspector Rosales said police opened fire on the group, killing one of the kidnappers. The rest, however, managed to flee with their captives. Rosales said troops later engaged the group in a firefight in Glan, about 1,060 km south of Manila, killing another kidnapper. The abductors decided to abandon their captives unharmed, apparently sensing they were outnumbered, Rosales said. He said Takayama and the other captives were turned over to a local official in Glan and taken to an army camp.

“They were all safe and unharmed,” local Gov. Priscilla Chiongbian said of the freed captives. Police identified the slain engineer as Mario Rebosura and his son as Mario Rebosura Jr. One of the women was identified as Mari Ruth Pinlac, but police said they only had a first name, Joy, for the other. The women were apparently trying to flee when they were taken captive, and Takayama was in a nearby cottage.

The MILF is one of two Muslim groups that has kept battling the Philippine government since September, when the larger Moro National Liberation Front signed a peace accord, ending nearly a quarter-century of insurrection. Police said the MILF has resorted to kidnappings and other crimes to finance its activities. Takayama belongs to a firm named Pacific Consultant, the Japanese Embassy said.