Philippine mayor, son arrested after helping free kidnapped TV crew

A town mayor and his son who helped negotiate for the release of three television journalists and a Muslim professor in the southern Philippines have been arrested for allegedly being involved in the kidnapping, officials said Thursday, the dpa reported.

Police were preparing to file criminal charges against Alvarez Isnaji, mayor of Indanan town on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila, and his son Haider, who served as his emissary in the negotiations with al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebels.

"The charges can range from conspiracy to being principals in the kidnapping," Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said. "Maybe they really did help in securing the release of the hostages, but that will have to be determined by investigation."

The hostages - Ces Drilon, senior correspondent of ABS-CBN, the largest radio and television network in the country; cameramen Jimmy Encarnancion and Angelo Valderama; and Muslim professor Octavio Dinampo - were abducted on June 8.

Valderama was freed on June 12, while Drilon, Encarnacion and Dinampo were released on June 17.

Drilon said they were tied and threatened with beheading several times during their captivity.

Isnaji and his son were brought to the Manila police headquarters on Wednesday for a debriefing to help in the investigation on the kidnapping.

But they were placed under arrest on Wednesday evening after inconsistencies in their statements, according to Chief Superintendent Raul Castaneda, director of the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

"Based on the evaluation of our investigators, there are so many inconsistencies on the debriefing made on the mayor and his son," Castaneda said. "We have officers who debunked their statements. These officers were at the area during the crisis."

The kidnappers had demanded 15 million pesos (340,900 dollars) for the release of the hostages. Authorities have denied ransom was paid to the rebels, but sources said money changed hands.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines, is also notorious for its kidnapping-for-ransom activities. They have beheaded some hostages in the past when their demands were not met.

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