Wake Up, Philippines!

After the release

Posted in Crime, Editorial, Kidnapping, Mindanao by Erineus on April 20, 2009
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In the jungles of Sulu, hostages who are mysteriously found abandoned by their captors are widely suspected to have regained their freedom through the payment of ransom. In the case of the mostly European hostages taken from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan, the Abu Sayyaf band led by Ghalib “Robot” Andang reportedly earned a whopping $30 million, with the bulk of the amount contributed by the Libyan government. That lucrative caper, suspected to have been brokered by certain government officials who were in cahoots with the bandits, led to more kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf.

The bandits’ main group later ventured all the way to Palawan to seize hostages from a resort. In that incident, several Filipinos also mysteriously walked free as the Abu Sayyaf dragged the remaining captives deeper into Basilan. Those who regained their freedom denied paying ransom. Left behind were several Filipinos and three Americans, one of whom was decapitated.

Today, the Abu Sayyaf leadership has been decimated, but what’s left of the group is still engaged in kidnapping. Earlier this year the band operating in Sulu seized three volunteers of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Filipina hostage was the first to be freed. The other day it was the turn of the Swiss hostage to walk free. The official version is that he managed to slip away from his captors as government forces were pursuing the bandits. The talk circulating in Mindanao is that the Abu Sayyaf had abandoned Andreas Notter after ransom was paid. Denials were issued yesterday by different offices starting with Malacañang. The fate of Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni is unknown, despite government forces supposedly coming within just 500 meters of the bandits before Notter walked free.

Paying ransom to secure the safe release of a hostage is fine if the payment also leads to the capture of the kidnappers and recovery of the ransom. Allowing bandits to enjoy the proceeds of their caper guarantees more kidnappings. In the Zamboanga peninsula and Basilan, groups apart from the Abu Sayyaf have entered the game, snatching teachers and other civilians and demanding ransom. It’s not enough to secure the release of hostages. Their captors must be found and neutralized, and any ransom paid must be recovered. Anyone who benefits from a ransom payment must be punished.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=459382&publicationSubCategoryId=64

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