N.B. The Philippine National Police’s mandate is to protect the life, liberty and property of the citizens. As such, it is the PNP’s duty to rescue the kidnap victims and to run after the kidnappers. The military’s duty is to protect the territorial integrity and the political independence of the country. Since the kidnapping incidents are mere money making criminal acts and they do not constitute a threat to the territorial integrity or the political independence of the country, the military should have been out of it. However, the PNP and the military may help each other, of course. When I use the word “military” and “soldiers” they include the members of the PNP.
Following the kidnapping of Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Filipino Jean Lacaba, the three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Secretary of Defense Gilbert Teodoro warned journalists and foreigners to coordinate with the military first before they roam Sulu. “We do not want to risk our soldiers’ lives” rescuing the kidnapped victims, the Secretary said. He noted that the three ICRC kidnap victims refused the military escort offered to them and their refusal resulted to their kidnapping.
I observed the sense of helplessness and at the same time the sense of urgency in the Secretary’s statement, and I also expressed my dread about the implication that statement brings:
1. The civil government in Mindanao does not have the control over the area,
2.The Abu Sayaff mocks the authorities,
3. And the military is no longer willing to die fighting the bandits.
As to number one, if the government has control over the area, it does not need to require people to coordinate with the military before people can freely roam Sulu.
As to number two, the kidnapping happened just outside the provincial capitol of Patikul, Sulu.
As to number three, Teodoro was only echoing what I believe his ground troops were saying to him, that they are no longer willing to risk their lives fighting the bandits to rescue the kidnapped.
That the military is no longer willing to risk their lives fighting the bandits to rescue the kidnapped does not mean however that it has refused to do its duty of protecting the country and its people. It only means that our soldiers have been in Mindanao long enough to realize that politicians use the conflicts—including kidnapping—in Mindanao to further whatever plans for personal gain they have in mind at the expense of the soldiers’ lives, not to mention the Philippines’ reputation.
Their experience thought them that the government is not sincere in putting an end to the sowing of conflicts in Mindanao, particularly in Sulu, as it runs after the bandits only when the issue is hot. But it does not do anything militarily or otherwise, when the issue has died down.
Today, the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its report “Kidnappers told: Form coop to get ‘ransom’ of livelihood aid” mentioned that Sulu Vice Governor Nur Anna Sahidulla visited the three ICRC captives and spoke with the kidnappers in an undisclosed area in Indanan, Sulu. The report also mentioned Sahidulla’s claim that the hypertension medicines of one of the kidnap victims from Italy, Eugenio Vagni, and the books for the kidnap victims were delivered to them.
Although Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan denied this fact, he was quoted saying: “It is easy to send the stuff (books and medicines), but it should be discussed first”.
Governor Tan says as if locating the kidnappers is as “easy” as reciting the letters of the alphabet. Like he has no knowledge of the amount of time and money spent from transporting battalions of soldiers from all parts of the Country to Mindanao to scouring the jungle for the kidnappers and the kidnap victims.
Governor Tan, in rejecting the offer to help of actor Robin Padilla and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Nur Misuari, even has the guts to brag: “We can solve this and we do not need any help. Padilla and Nur Misuari should not involve themselves in this problem anymore. We will ask for their help if we need it.”
Such display of arrogance.
The fact that there is again an incident of kidnapping only shows that he, the great Governor of Sulu, Abdusakur Tan, cannot and has not solved the problem. Of course, Gov. Tan only said that in the context of the present problem. If that is so, is he trying to say that he can resolve this particular kidnap crisis but he cannot prevent kidnapping from happening again?
Where and what is the source of his arrogance?
Every thinking person wonders: is it possible that the military has no idea about the location of the kidnappers and their victims? How come the provincial officials of Sulu even sent its representative, in the person of Vice Governor Sahidulla, to meet the victims and talk with the kidnappers; and how come, the Governor of Sulu is even bold enough to say sending medicines and books to the kidnap victims is “easy”?
Of course, the military knows. But soldiers are group of people who only obey orders. How can they not know with all their intelligence and with all the technical help America is giving in the form of unmanned drone and who knows what else?
Battles are expensive, but the Philippines can afford a battle with Abu Sayaff. That no military rescue is undertaken may be due to the safety concerns for the victims. But the fact that kidnappings happen over and over again, and that said kidnappings are conducted by the same group of people who use different name each time, and the same people are known to the provincial officials, has only one explanation: that there exist collusion between the kidnappers and the local government, and between the local government and the national official/s where orders for military actions come from.
Ces Drilon, the senior reporter of ABS-CBN, may even have an insider knowledge about this collusion having been a kidnap victim herself and having had countless conversations with her captors.
But Ces is aware no witness will collaborate her story should she come out. More importantly, she has a family to protect. If there was something about her kidnapping that she was grateful about, it was for the realization that, for her family, she was worth more than the millions of pesos paid for her ransom. That she was valued by her family so high it’s beyond price. She is not about to do a “foolish” act again because this time, for all her value which is beyond price, she might end up in a box so small and so dark only candles can give a meaningful light.
Besides, should she come out, what is the guarantee that the culprits will get convictions and the kidnappings will stop?
For all its complexities, it takes only one thing to solve the kidnapping problem in Sulu. But for all their professions of love and loyalty for the Philippines, no one among the national leaders has the political will to put a period to this menace in Sulu.