Arlyn de la Cruz was released by her kidnappers on 27 April 2002, after having been held hostage on Jolo Island for more than 100 days. According to the press agency AFP, an information official stated that a ransom of nearly EUR 43,000 was paid to secure her release. Senator Loren Legarda, leading the negotiations, denies this version of the facts.
Arlyn de la Cruz says she knows who her kidnappers were, but wishes to consult her family and the Christian community to which she belongs before making this information public. The television reporter for the Net 25 channel says they were not members of the Abu Sayyaf group, but former members of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front who have since joined the armed forces. Lieutenant-General Roy Cimatu, Chief of the Southern Command, who has ordered a preliminary investigation, said, "These alleged erring military personnel will face not only administrative sanctions but criminal liabilities as well".
11.04.2002- Kidnapping of reporter is confirmed
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF) expressed its great concern today after confirmation of the kidnapping three months ago of Filipino journalist Arlyn de la Cruz by bandits on the Philippines island of Mindanao and called on the kidnappers to release her at once. It also urged the Manila government to find her and negotiate her release.
Her newspaper, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, printed a handwritten letter from her on 8 April saying she had been kidnapped in January by armed rebels on the southern island of Jolo. De la Cruz, who also works for the local TV station Net25, was last seen on 19 January 2002 at the Orchid Garden hotel in Zamboanga, in southwestern Mindanao. Since then, some rumours said she was in the jungle with guerrillas of the Islamic fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, while others said she had invented her kidnapping to bolster her public image.
The authorities began looking for her in February and the official version of her disappearance was that Abu Sayyaf guerrillas kidnapped her in a dispute over money. Her two employers say they received phone calls, mostly in February, from someone who said she was De la Cruz.
Her recent letter said she had been kidnapped on the island of Jolo by dissidents of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who had killed her guide, a member of the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. After discovering she was not carrying the ransom demanded by the Abu Sayyaf fighters in exchange for freeing American hostages, the bandits stripped her and slapped her, the letter said. She was threatened with execution for more than a fortnight and then handed over to another armed group, which at first demanded a ransom of more than 40 million pesos (nearly 900,000 euros) before reducing it to 11 million. She said in the letter she was afraid she would be killed and asked Filipino journalists to help her.
De la Cruz, who has two children, is well-known for having several times interviewed Abu Sayyaf leaders. In May 2000, she filmed the last two American hostages being held by the guerrillas. Many journalists have criticised her for being so close to Abu Sayyaf and seeking stories at any cost. In her letter, she told her fellow journalists: "You have judged me, accused me and crucified me. But I don't blame you. I understand the industry, and I do realize you are reporting based on just a limited point of view of the entire story."