By SAMMY JULIAN
Manila News Bureau Chief
MANILA – The Filipina resort worker abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sabah, Malaysia along with a Chinese tourist two months ago is expected to return to the Philippines shortly and be reunited with her family.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Marcelita Dayawan was turned over by Malaysian authorities to the Philippine Embassy in Kula Lumpur early Sunday night.
DFA spokesperson Charles Jose said preparations are underway for Dayawan’s repatriation to the Philippines after she was cleared of any involvement in the case by the Malaysian police based on statements of Chinese victim Gao Hua Yuan.
“During the handover, Malaysian police authorities told Embassy officials that they did not consider her an accomplice to the kidnapping,” the DFA spokesperson said in a statement.
According to Jose, Dayawan was given the choice to remain in the Philippines after her rescue, but she decided to return to Malaysia partly to clear her name.
The 40-year-old Filipina and the 29-year-old Chinese tourist were abducted from the Singamata Resorts off Semporna in Sabah on April 2.
They were first brought by their captors to Tawi-Tawi before they escaped by boat to Sulu.
The Philippine Embassy expressed elation that Dayawan and Gao were now safe and set to be reunited with their families.
“In this vein, we are grateful for the efforts undertaken by Philippine and Malaysian authorities in securing their release,” the Embassy said.
But the Embassy expressed deep concern over the spate of abductions in Sabah allegedly perpetrated by criminal groups from Mindanao, citing the detrimental impact of such incidents to the residents of Mindanao and Sabah.
“We wish that these groups desist from conducting such criminal activities, as many of the affected people in Mindanao and Sabah share a common heritage and have close affinity and blood ties. Carrying out or tolerating these criminal actions is a disservice to one’s country, fellowmen and kin,” it stated.
As this developed, Malaysia announced that state security forces are currently making significant headway in their efforts to cripple kidnap-for-ransom groups based in the Philippines that have been striking Sabah’s east coast.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohamad Mantek told the Malaysian media they have so far identified 14 such groups, of which seven are still active.
He noted that recent meetings between Malaysian security officials and their Philippine counterparts helped considerably in gathering information about these criminals./PN