MANILA, Philippines – Suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants have set a Tuesday deadline for the payment of a ransom for the release of a popular TV news anchor and her cameraman, who were kidnapped in the southern Philippines, a negotiator said.
Alvarez Isnaji, the mayor of Sulu province's Indanan township, said suspected Abu Sayyaf militants phoned him Monday morning and said talks to secure the release of ABS-CBN anchor Ces Drilon would be called off if the ransom were not paid before Tuesday. Isnaji is one of the negotiators in the talks.
"They gave me a warning: if the money does not arrive by noon Tuesday ... there will be no more negotiation," he told reporters in a briefing broadcast by Manila radio stations from southern Jolo island.
Isnaji earlier said the abductors demanded $450,000 in ransom. But he put the amount at $337,000 Monday.
He said he also spoke to a tearful Drilon who told him, "Mayor, I want to get out of here."
Isnaji said he plans to send an emissary to the abductors. He has not met face-to-face with the kidnappers.
ABS-CBN, the country's largest television network, said Monday it was doing everything it could to help Drilon, Encarnacion and their families through their ordeal, but that the company would not give in to the kidnappers' demands.
"ABS-CBN will abide by its policy not to pay ransom because this would embolden kidnap for ransom groups to abduct other journalists, putting more lives at risk," the TV station said in an e-mailed statement.
Drilon, her two cameramen and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo were abducted June 8 on Jolo by gunmen believed to be led by Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad and Gaifur Jumdail, who belongs to another armed group, said Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, the regional police chief.
The U.S. lists the Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist group for bombings, beheadings and abductions.
Angelo Valderama, one of two cameramen snatched, was released Thursday. Isnaji said Valderama was freed after the kidnappers were paid a "minimal amount" for the hostages' food expenses.