2 PREACHERS ESCAPE FROM ABU SAYYAF

Zamboanga City, April 20, 2003 --  Government forces have recovered 
Saturday two Filipino Christian preachers kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf Muslim 
rebels in the southern Philippine island of Jolo, security officials said.

Southern Command deputy chief for operations Brig. Gen. Romeo Tolentino 
said the duo Emily Mantic and Cleofe Montulo have escaped from their 
captors in Patikul town before midnight Friday.

"They were recovered only on Saturday around noontime," Tolentino told 
reporters in Zamboanga City.

Armed Forces chief General Narciso Abaya said rescue operation is going in 
Jolo island to free the remaining 3 Filipino hostages. "The recovery of the 
hostages are part of the goverment offensive against the Abu Sayyaf. The 
rebels are pressured and they are tired and on the run," he said.

The duo, kidnapped in August last year along with four other preachers, are 
members of the evangelist group called the Jehova's Witnesses. Two female 
captives -- Flor Montulo and Norie Bendijo -- remain in the hands of 
rebels. Two other male hostages were behaded by the Abu Sayyaf last year.

A third hostage Gertrudez Tan is also being held by Muslim gunmen in Jolo 
island, where rescue efforts are going on, Tolentino said. He said Mantic 
and Montulo have escaped after their guards fell asleep.

"The rebels were so tired and pressured by the military offensive that's 
why they may have falled asleep and this gave the two hostages the chance 
to escape," he said.

Tolentino said the duo walked and ran all night until they reached a 
highway where they hitched a ride to a passing passenger jeep and sought 
help from a Muslim man Rizal Radam, who is a professor at the Mindanao 
State University in Jolo.

"Professor Radam brought the victims to an Army base in Jolo and handed 
them over to security officials," he said. "Miilitary doctors have examined 
Mantic and Montulo and they are both okay and very hungry and tired."

Tolentino said the two have told military commanders in Jolo about their 
ordeal in the mountain.
"They also requested the commanders to tell President Gloria Arroyo and 
Gen. Narciso Abaya about happy they are. They thanked President Arroyo and 
General Abaya," he said.

Troops also brought to the Southern Command on Saturday the remains of 
kidnapped Indonesian seaman Montu Jacobus Winowatan and Filipino trader 
David Chua who were executed by rebels in February during a military rescue 
operation.

Two Indonesian hostages Julkifli and Peter Lerrich have also escaped 
separately in a span of four weeks from the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul town and 
told the military that guerrillas have killed the Winowatan and Chua.

Jolo military commander Col. Alexander Aleo said troops were sent to 
Patikul town Saturday to hunt down the rebels and rescue the two Jehova's 
Witnesses' members and Tan, held separately by gunmen.

"My order is to track down the rebels and rescue the hostages. We will 
destroy the Abu Sayyaf," he told reporters here. (Al Jacinto, PHNO Mindanao 
Bureau)

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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