ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines- Soldiers found a headless body in Parang, Sulu, late Monday evening, a military official said Tuesday.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command based here, said that the military believed the headless cadaver belonged to Malaysian Bernard Then Ted Fen.
He said soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade were scouring Sitio Lungon-lungon in Barangay Lanao Dakula when they found the body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition, around 11 p.m. Monday.
"(The) alleged decapitated body of Malaysian Chinese Bernard Then Ted Fen is recovered at Sitio Lungon-lungon in Barangay Lanao Dakula, Parang municipality," Tan said.
"(It) will be subjected to DNA testing to determine if it matches the head recovered last month," he added, referring to the severed head found on Nov. 17. The head, which was found inside a sack labelled with the name of the Malaysian kidnap victim, was recovered in Barangay Taran in Indanan town.
However, the result of the DNA testing on the head had not been released yet.
Then was abducted, together with restaurant owner Thien Nyuk Fun, from Sandakan on May 14.
Thien was subsequently released after paying ransom but the group led by Abu Sayyaf leaders Alhabsy Misaya and Idang Susukan had demanded P30 million (S$892,000) for Then's freedom.
The Malaysian media reported in August that Then had told his wife, Chan Wai See, that the Abu Sayyaf had planned to kill him if the ransom money was not delivered by November. Then also told her that another hostage, Dapitan village chair Rodolfo Boligao, had been beheaded because of the family's failure to pay ransom.
Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Task Group Sulu, said Then's family apparently failed to pay the ransom demand too, which was why he was beheaded by the bandits.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through a statement, said beheadings of kidnapping victims were an "act of terrorism."
"We join the Malaysian government and people in condemning this dastardly act of terrorism and share the grief and sorrow of the nation. Our hearts go out to the friends and family of the victim of this despicable tragedy," the MILF said after news that Then had been killed broke.
The MILF also called on the Abu Sayyaf to stop its "un-Islamic" activities of kidnapping.
"We call upon the Abu Sayyaf Group to abandon their kidnapping activities, being against Islam and human dignity and civility. Kidnapping will bring your group to nowhere," the MILF said.
The rebel group also appealed to the key stakeholders in the area including its former comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front to help in ending the kidnapping scourge.
"We also call upon the leaders of the Sulu Province, including the politicians, MNLF and the claimants to the Sultanate of Sulu to pool their efforts together to stop or at least neutralize these kidnapping activities," the MILF said.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the time has come for the government, especially the local government of Sulu, to act and end the atrocities being perpetrated by armed groups in that province.
"The local government should act on this. It should be on the front line in the campaign against these armed groups," he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.
Hataman said although the military has been conducting operations against the Abu Sayyaf, "the local government should also (make) concerted effort to address the problem."
"It is not enough that we condemn this atrocity, we should act on it," he added.