Schilling says he wants his captors destroyed
MANILA, Philippines – An American who was rescued by the Philippines military after nearly eight months in Muslim rebel captivity left for home Sunday, saying he wants the guerrillas destroyed.
Jeffrey Schilling, 25, of Oakland, casually walked into Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport with his American security escorts and boarded a Continental Micronesia flight to Guam.
Looking relaxed in a white sweatshirt, he ignored reporters’ questions before passing through security, when he turned back and gave a brief statement, thanking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and defense chief Angelo Reyes for working to liberate him from his Abu Sayyaf rebel captors.
“I’d like them to continue the efforts against the Abu Sayyaf,” Schilling said. “There are groups which can and will be destroyed as long as the operations continue.”
Army troops found Schilling barefoot and covered with mosquito bites when they rescued him Thursday on southern Jolo Island, where he had been held in the jungle since August.
He first was taken to the northern mountain resort city of Baguio to meet Arroyo, who was vacationing there. He said he had lost 100 pounds of his pre-captivity weight of 250 pounds.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Michael Anderson said Schilling, who has denied reports he had joined his captors, was debriefed in Manila by U.S. and Philippine authorities.
Civilians on Jolo reported seeing Schilling patrolling with guerrillas and carrying a rifle. Schilling’s wife, Ivy Osani, is a cousin of an Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Abu Sabaya, and the couple were visiting a rebel camp when the guerrillas decided to keep him. Osani was allowed to go. Schilling said he was told to carry a weapon for appearances.
Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, armed forces chief of staff, said officials were convinced Schilling was an unwilling hostage.
Schilling is the last of scores of foreigners seized by the Abu Sayyaf last year. The smallest of the three major insurgency groups in the Philippines took them in two daring raids in Malaysia. They then held scores of foreign journalists who went to Jolo to cover the kidnappings.
The foreigners were freed reportedly in exchange for huge ransoms. Only Roland Ulla, a Filipino worker at a Malaysian scuba diving resort, remains in their custody.
The Abu Sayyaf had threatened to behead Schilling — who they had vowed six times before to kill — on April 5 as a gift for Arroyo’s 54th birthday. Arroyo responded by ordering “all-out war” on the group.
On Sunday, Arroyo delivered a strong warning and repeated she would not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf, along with other criminals who mock the law.
“They better beware. There will be no peace table for them,” Arroyo said. “The only peace for them is the peace of the graveyard.”
Abu Sayyaf rebels say they are fighting for Islamic independence in the southern Philippines but Arroyo called them a “kidnap-for-ransom gang” which would be pulverized by the military if they don’t surrender.
Arroyo has sought peace talks with another Muslim rebel group, the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, along with communist rebels, who have been waging a Marxist rebellion nationwide for more than three decades.