Saturday May, 25 2024 01:37:06 PM

Time to end KFR in Sulu

 • 01:10 AM Thu Apr 28, 2016
Victor M. Taylor/Canada

Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR) incidents in the province of Sulu have gotten out of hand. It
appears that the Government is powerless to do anything about it and can only react after the
fact, after victims have been abducted and they and their families are subjected to physical and
psychological torture. While there have been a few instances where the authorities have
succeeded in pressuring the kidnappers so that the victims have been either released or have
escaped, in the vast majority of cases – over 75% it would appear – KFR victims have been
released because ransom has been paid.
These KFR incidents have escalated in recent years and have become more audacious.
Compared to earlier years when 11, 9 and 12 victims were kidnapped in 2011, 2012 and 2013
respectively, in 2014 26 persons were kidnapped, while last year 20 persons were abducted. In
March and April of this year 18 persons were abducted.
Moreover, abductions have spread out to Sabah, Palawan and Davao aside from the usual
kidnapping grounds of Sulu, Basilan and Zamboanga. In 2014, four kidnapping incidents took
place in Sabah. Because the Malaysian Government reinforced the Eastern Sabah Security
Command (ESSCOM) which it had set up in 2013, the cross-border incidents were reduced to
only one in 2015 but the ASG shifted its tactics and now is preying on vessels plying between
Borneo and the Philippines. The 18 persons kidnapped in March and April of 2016 were all
crew members (Indonesian and Malaysian) of vessels sailing between Borneo and the
Kidnappers have also shown themselves to be merciless with regard to their victims. Two-yearold
Zynielle Jay Garban was strangled and thrown into the sea as the kidnappers made their
escape from Pitogo in Zamboanga del Sur where they abducted the child, her 3-year old brother
and a 17-year old cousin. Barangay Chairman Rodolfo Buligao was decapitated by his
kidnappers in August 2015 while the same fate befell Malaysian Bernard Then in November of
the same year. Now the ASG executed Canadian John Ridsdel after their atrocious demand for a
P300 million ransom payment was not met.
Clearly, the strategy the Philippine Government has adopted with regard to the ASG is not
working. Over the last 5 years there have been a total of over 50 kidnapping incidents which
took place either in the province of Sulu or elsewhere and in which the victims were brought to
Sulu. These 50+ kidnapping incidents involved close to 100 victims. Of these 50+ incidents, it
is estimated that 44 have been resolved either completely – i.e., where the victims have been
released or escaped or were rescued – or partially – i.e. where one of the victims has been
released while other victims continue to be held in captivity. Of these 44 resolved cases it is
estimated that 75% were resolved because ransom was paid. Based on publicly available
information a total of P668 million (US$14.5 million) was paid for 15 of these cases.
The basic strategy the Philippine Government has taken is to undertake negotiations with the
kidnappers through private parties like relatives or friends of the victims but overseen by the
Anti-Kidnapping Group of the Philippine National Police while the Armed Forces of the
Philippines undertakes military operations in the hope of either rescuing the victims or creating
conditions whereby the victims may be able to escape. In undertaking this strategy the
Government takes due regard for the safety of the victims and civilians who may be affected by
the military operations.
It is time to take more aggressive measures but this has to be done with the support of the people
of Sulu. Without this support, any such measures will be bound to backfire and fail. Exactly
what these measures will be needs to be threshed out by a group that understands the situation in
Sulu and the psychology of the people. Moreover, the local government officials of the province
must be fully involved and must be made accountable for the peace and order conditions within
their jurisdiction.
Two years ago a proposal was made to national authorities to create an Inter-Agency Task Force
to look into the Abu Sayyaf problem. Unfortunately the proposal was not given sufficient
attention. Moreover, efforts undertaken by the Philippine Marines to build closer relationships
with local communities through a Community Relations Training (CRT) program, which was
receiving favorable response from communities in Patikul, the center of ASG operations in Sulu,
unfortunately lost steam as greater attention was given to military operations.
The time to address the situation is now.N.B. – All information in this Table was obtained from published sources. Information on
specific ransom payments has likewise been obtained from published sources. The speculations
on Ransom most likely paid” is based on the writer’s judgement based on close to 50 years of
having dealt with the people of the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (BaSulTa) area aside from having
lived for a number of years in Sulu. Writer is now based in Toronto, Canada but continues to stay
in touch with his friends in BaSulTa.A listing of kidnapping incidents from 2011 to April 2016 followsand sand// sand// sand// sand// sand// sand//

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