PDI Editorial : Kidnappings most foul

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Posted date: February 12, 2009

While it is keeping tabs on the situation of the three aid workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross abducted in Sulu province on Jan. 15, the public should not lose sight of the reality that there are other people held hostage by bandits there and elsewhere. Other people with as much dedication to service as Mary Jean Lacaba of the Philippines, Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Eugenio Vagni of Italy, with their work similarly left hanging, and their families as gripped by a now enduring anguish.

As local officials and military and police authorities plot, plan and position to wrest the Red Cross trio from the bandits’ clutches, so also must efforts (not necessarily military) be expended to rescue Janette de los Reyes, Freires Quizon and Rafael Mayonado, all teachers of the Landang Gua Integrated School who were snatched on Jan. 23 while on a motorboat and are now being held in Muhammad Ajul, Basilan.

Think likewise of Leah Patriz of the Kasanyangan Community Development Foundation Inc., who was abducted on Feb. 3 in Sumisip, Basilan, while she and her colleagues were heading back to their office after collecting loan payments for their microfinance organization.

As well, spare a thought for businessman Diong Hin Que, snatched in Sulu on Feb. 2, and nameless others (including a 9-year-old boy kidnapped in Lamitan, Basilan, on Feb. 1) — ordinary people suddenly flung into extraordinary circumstances, at the mercy of time and the elements, the perverse arrogance of banditry, and the politics of greed.

We must remember their names if only to prevent their lapsing into mere statistics and indicators of the configuration of violence in specific areas. We must imagine, to the extent possible, the state of the health of 68-year-old Que, Patriz in fear and trembling, the nine-year-old child crying for his mother.

It is imperative that we stay connected to their personal details — for example, that teachers De los Reyes, Quizon and Mayonado had to take a motorboat daily to get to their students. We must ever be moved by each life shattered and rudely put on hold, if only to keep the outrage fresh. (And we must applaud Eleazar Gumera, a midwife snatched on Jan. 28 in Akbar, Basilan, who walked and swam to freedom on Feb. 7.)

The fact is that the rash of kidnappings in the South shows the authorities’ astounding inability to keep lawlessness in check. (If proof were needed, consider the kidnapping of Patriz and her colleagues while the top dogs of law enforcement, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, were being given a situationer by the crisis management committee in Zamboanga City.) Or can it be that authorities are in on things as they happen?

That question became a conclusion in many observers’ minds as early as the late 1990s, when issues on the culpability of military officials, local executives and Joseph Estrada’s negotiators, to speak nothing of the suspected sharing of huge amounts of ransom between bandits and officialdom, were swept under the rug and left to fester. But as in a boil that comes to a head sooner or later, the simmering question ultimately surfaces.

Fatmawatti Salapuddin of the Bangsamoro Women’s Association has made a chilling disclosure of the extent of the crime and the impunity with which it is being committed: Many abductions have gone unreported, “with ordinary people paying as much as P200,000” for their freedom. It serves to confirm the long-running suspicion that kidnapping for ransom is a protected industry in a down economy, trading on human emotion, and earning untold profit for the perps and their patrons.

“It’s all because of money,” Salapuddin has said. Indeed, it is. Then as now, her question, which she directs at the military and police, rings true: “Why is it that nobody has been arrested in connection with the kidnappings?”


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