Kris Aquino Image Credit: AFP

Manila: A suspect in the purported plan to kidnap President Benigno Aquino III’s sister, actress Kris, was arrested by government agents in Laguna province recently.

Reynaldo Velasquez Ilao of San Pedro, Laguna South of Manila, was allegedly a co-conspirator in a plan by a group of Muslim coverts, the Rajah Suleiman Movement (RSM) and Abu Sayyaf, to kidnap the President’s 40-year-old sister and carry out a bombing campaign.

A report by the TV and radio network GMA Network said agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines swooped down on the suspected hideout of Ilao on April 26 and arrested the suspect.

Authorities seized from Ilao a .45 calibre pistol and a hand grenade.

The capture came days after a leader of the RSM was arrested at a government checkpoint in Zamboanga City on April 16.

Then on April 27, Aquino said during a press briefing on the execution of Canadian mining executive John Ridsdel that Abu Sayyaf and the RSM had hatched a plan to kidnap Kris as well as internationally known Filipino boxer-cum-parliament member Manny Pacquiao.

The abduction, according to the President, was aimed at holding either or both for ransom in exchange for millions in cash, as well as to gain support from the Middle East-based Daesh.

Kris had made a name in the local television and movie industry in the Philippines before his elder and only brother was elected President in 2010. The siblings are children of the late President Corazon C. Aquino.

“The Abu Sayyaf Group and various smaller terrorist groups and factions now want to align themselves with Daesh to gain access to the funds and resources of Daesh. From day one of my administration, they have had aspirations to conduct bombings in Metro Manila to catch the attention of Daesh,” the Philippine leader had said.

The RSM had earlier been blamed for bomb attacks including the devastating 2005 “Valentines Day” coordinated terror attacks that targeted civilians in the cities of Makati, Davao, and General Santos.

The blasts, reported to have taken place within a span of 30 minutes, left four people dead in Makati City and dozens of others in the two other urban centres.

Some of the suspects in the Valentines’ Day bombings and other similar attacks by the RSM have been arrested.

Sixty-eight-year-old John Ridsdel, along with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, 50, and Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad, 56, and Filipina partner Marites Flor were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf on September 21, 2015, from the island resort of Samal in Davao Oriental.

The kidnapping drew condemnation from the Canadian government, but the country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said his government remains firm in not giving in to the ransom demands of Abu Sayyaf.