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June 18, 2001, Philippine Daily Inquirer, All because of craving for Coke, ny Alexander Young,

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June 18, 2001, Philippine Daily Inquirer, All because of craving for Coke, ny Alexander Young,

Posted: 11:36 PM (Manila Time) PDI Mindanao Bureau,

 

ZAMBOANGA CITY--All because of the hostages’ craving for Coca-Cola, eight people were killed and 22 others were wounded in the firefight between the Abu Sayyaf and the military in Lamitan, Basilan, on June 2.

 

Freed captive Francis Ganzon said the Abu Sayyaf bandits went down to Lamitan from the jungle after the hostages asked Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Ahmad Salayyudin alias Abu Sabaya for a Coke.

 

"We told him, 'Abu Sabaya, matagal na tayong hindi nakainom ng Coke (we haven’t drunk Coke for a long time).’ Sabi niya, `sige uminom tayo ng Coke (He said `let’s drink Coke),’" Ganzon said in an interview with Radio Mindanao Network on Saturday.

 

On that same night (June 1), Ganzon said, Sabaya declared: "Bababa tayo sa Lamitan dahil may Coke doon (We will go down to Lamitan because there’s Coke there)."

 

Rented jeep

 

"We rented a jeep, and in the cover of darkness, we entered the hospital," Ganzon said.

 

It was not clear if the Jose Torres Memorial Hospital had Coke.

 

The bandits also entered the adjacent St. Peter's Church.

 

Fierce fighting between government soldiers and the bandits broke out in the early morning of June 2.

 

But when night came, the bandits and their hostages escaped without a fight.

 

Four of the 20 original Dos Palmas hostages escaped. The bandits, however, seized five more people at the hospital.

 

The next morning, the bodies of an altar boy and two soldiers lay outside the St. Peter's Church, which was also riddled with bullets.

 

"This is a disaster" was how Lamitan parish priest Cirilo Nacorda described the church. The bandits burned four houses as they fled.

 

The military's ground and air assault also damaged at least 15 houses. All because the hostages wanted to drink Coke.

 

Robot not in Ilocos

 

In Baguio City, outgoing Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson called up a radio station from Ilocos Sur on Monday to clarify a report about the alleged presence of Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, also known as Kumander Robot, in Northern Luzon.

 

Singson, during a morning broadcast of RPN radio dzBS, dismissed reports that Andang had been sighted in Ilocos Sur.

 

"Ang nandito si Atchang, wala dito si Andang (The person here is Atchang, not Andang)," Singson said in reaction to a report by a local daily that Andang was in Ilocos.

 

The daily quoted sources in its headline on Monday about clandestine meetings between Singson and Andang and separate meetings between Singson and outgoing Abra Board Member Ernesto Pacuño Sr.

 

Pacuño, popularly known as "Dragon," helped then government negotiator Robert Aventajado broker the release of the hostages that the Abu Sayyaf seized last year from the Malaysian diving report of Sipadan.

 

The Baguio report implied Singson was about to take over Pacuño’s role to deal with the remaining seven of the bandit group’s 20 hostages who were abducted in a May 27 raid on the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan.

 

Singson claimed last week that Andang had offered to ``return to the fold of the law’’ with several of his men but only in the governor’s presence.

Two national newspapers reported on Monday that a source was claiming that Andang was already in Singson’s custody.

 

Singson said Andang had chosen him as mediator because he was an Ilocano like Pacuño.

 

"There are a lot of Ilocanos in Mindanao, so (Andang) called me up . . . Pacuño helped (in the Sipadan crisis) and that is why Andang tapped me. He was the one who called and I thought, maybe, I can help now because all of us are affected by (the crisis in Mindanao)," the governor said.

 

In the middle of the radio interview, Singson brushed aside reports that Andang was offering government half of his loot from previous kidnap-for-ransom operations in exchange for amnesty from prosecution.

 

"Wala, wala . . . (No, no)," Singson muttered when the news reports were mentioned.

 

"Andang never even used the word surrender. He said he was returning to the fold of the law," he said in Filipino. With a report from Vincent Cabreza, PDI Northern Luzon Bureau

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