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Catholic Church workers abducted in Basilan, freed in Sulu

Banut and Masong freeds after 43 days in captivity

Gulf News

Manila: Two Catholic Church workers abducted in Basilan last month have been released by their captors after 43 days of captivity, a report reaching the Philippine capital said.

Frederick Banut, 24, and Cherden Masong, 25, who worked for the Claretian Missionary Order in Basilan, was freed last week in Sulu’s capital, Jolo.

Banot and Masong “were abducted in the remote coastal town of Lantawan, Basilan last Sept. 4, were released in Jolo, Sulu on Thursday night”, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines said on its website.

An entry posted on the local Claretian Order website,, said Banot and Mason had been engaged in educating Bajaus when they were kidnapped. The victims had been teaching at the Bajau Learning Centre in Sitio Pangasaan, Tairan village, in the town of Lantawan.

Upon the duo’s release last Thursday, they were handed over to the Philippine military and were taken to Zamboanga City on Friday.

The Badjaos are sea-going peoples who inhabited of Southern Philippines and what is now considered as western Malaysia. They are largely deprived of education due to their nomadic nature.

The Claretian Order statement did not give further details about the negotiation that eventually led to the release of the two Church workers and the group of armed men, who abducted Banot and Masong remains unidentified.

Basilan in Southern Philippines is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for kidnap for ransom and other atrocities.

In May 3, 2000 a young Claretian priest, Father Rhoel Gallardo was killed by the Abu Sayyaf at the end of a month and a half-long hostage crisis that involved four teachers and 22 students of the Claret School of Tumahubong, Basilan.

Father Gallardo was tortured and beheaded as the Army launched an attack against the hostage-takers in a botched rescue operation.

Aside from Father Gallardo, the Abu Sayyaf also killed three teachers and five children.