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   Tuesday June 19, 2001, Philippines
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P5-M ransom paid for teenage hostage (June 18, 2001)

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Who’s Stef Saño?
Posted: 11:02 PM (Manila Time) | June 18, 2001
By Carlito Pablo, Juliet Javellana and Volt Contreras
Inquirer News Service
page 1 of 3

STEF SAÑO, the alleged “courier” of the Uy family.
IS THE administration using the people of former Estrada official Robert Aventajado to negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of the Dos Palmas hostages? And is ransom once again being paid to the bandits?

These questions cropped up after Stef Saño, an associate of Aventajado, appeared in the INQUIRER’S banner photo on Sunday with two of the recently freed Dos Palmas hostages, 50-year-old Francis Ganzon and teener Kimberly Jao Uy.

Saño, who was at the extreme right of the photo, was not named in the caption.

Yesterday, Stef was mentioned in the INQUIRER’S banner story as the alleged “courier,” of the Uy family along with someone named Jorge, of the P5 million paid for the release of Uy.

Stef and Jorge were described in the report of the PDI Mindanao Bureau as having come from Camp Crame, the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

In a phone interview, National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said Saño was in the waiting area of the Villamor Air Base when the plane carrying Ganzon and Uy arrived at 5:25 p.m. last Saturday.

With Ganzon and Uy was Ustadz Muhaymin Sahi Latip, a Muslim who tried to negotiate for the release of the hostages but was in turn taken captive himself.

“He had been there for about 30 minutes before the plane landed,” Golez said of Saño.

Golez, however, said he was not sure whether Saño was there for either the Ganzon or Uy family.

Saño was seen in a “huddle” with Teresa Ganzon, wife of the hostage, at the time the plane landed at the air base.

Last year, about $21 million changed hands during the Sipadan hostage crisis in which Aventajado, then flagship projects adviser to then President Joseph Estrada, served as the chief government negotiator with the Abu Sayyaf.

Before Uy and Ganzon’s release, there had been reports that ransom money was paid in exchange for the freedom of the hostages who were able to “escape.” Among them were construction magnate Reghis Romero II, his female companion and 9-year-old RJ Recio.

Saño yesterday denied that he was involved in the release of the hostages or the payment of ransom.

“Why am I being dragged into this,” Saño said when reached by the INQUIRER for comment.

He said he was being linked to the rumors of ransom payments because of his previous connection with Aventajado.

Saño admitted he worked for Aventajado’s party-list group Bagong Bayani but this was after the Sipadan hostage crisis.

Bagong Bayani, which represents overseas contract workers, received enough votes in the May 14 elections, giving Aventajado a seat in the House of Representatives. As of press time, Aventajado could not be reached for comment.

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