Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mar. 6, 2006

NGO worker abducted in Aurora
By Tonette Orejas Inquirer

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga -- A non-government organization worker and radio anchor abducted by armed men in Baler town, Aurora province, on Friday night has remained missing, his colleagues said.

The search for Joey Estriber, 35, program officer of the Catholic Church-backed Bataris, has turned up negative, according to Josefina Marino, a fellow program officer of the victim.

According to police, witnesses reported seeing Estriber cry out for help as he was thrown into a heavily tinted maroon Kia Besta van without license plates by four men at around 7 p.m. near Baler's electric cooperative office.

The police and military have put up checkpoints along the Pantabangan-Canili highway in a bid to find Estriber.

Troops from the Army's 48th Infantry Battalion were suspected to have taken Estriber after the victim stopped four soldiers from attending a Bataris-sponsored forum and campaign planning on Charter change on Feb. 28.

In a text message to the Inquirer that day, Estriber identified two of those who barged into the forum as 2nd Lieutenant Donato Molina and a Sergeant Sanchez.

Lieutenant Colonel Joselito Kakilala, 48th IB commander, denied his men had a role in the abduction.

Estriber, as secretary general of the Multi-Sectoral Action Group of Aurora, led the group's campaign against large-scale mining and illegal logging.

He was also the anchor of the radio program Pag-usapan Natin over dzJO in Baler.

Two messages from Estriber's cell phone were received half an hour after he was kidnapped saying, "Huwag kayong mag-alala, ok lang ako (Don't worry, I'm all right)," and "Nagtatago ako (I'm in hiding)." The recipients of the messages, however, doubted they came from Estriber.

Recent incidents suggest the Bataris formation center may have been making enemies. A Bataris building was burned down in December and two of its staff members were nearly abducted in the same month. In February, a military officer said on the radio that members of non-government organizations like Bataris were in the military's "order of battle."

<< Back to index