8-year-old Abu Sayyaf hostage freed

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Abu Sayyaf freed its 8-year-old kidnap victim, Rexon Romoc on Monday, February 27, after 6 months in captivity.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, confirmed that Romoc was released by the Abu Sayyaf in the vicinity of Barangay Anuling, Patikul, Sulu.

Romoc and his parents, Elmer and Nora, were kidnapped in Barangay Kulisap, Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, on August 5, 2016. Nora was released on August 23, 2016, while Elmer was freed in November 2016, after ransom payment of P1 million each.

Barangay Chairman Ging Hayudini of Anuling fetched Romoc and brought him to Jolo airport. The boy then boarded a private aircraft owned by Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan and departed on the same date.

The family of the victim allegedly paid a P3-million ransom for his safe release. 

Romoc was presented to President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang on Tuesday, February 28.

Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza brought the boy to Malacañang. The child was all smiles as he made his way inside the main Palace building, waving to reporters who called him by his name. 

Dureza said the boy's mother, Nora, contacted him in the hope that the government can secure her child's freedom.  Nora is a businesswoman while her husband is a government employee. The family owns a general merchandise store and a coconut plantation.

"Since last December, I would get texts and calls from her, most of the time crying, asking for help. President Duterte instructed me to work on his release," he said.

Dureza had made an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate the boy's release on February 11. – Pia Ranada and Richard Falcatan / Rappler.com