The Kidnapping in Southern Philippines
By Apolinario Villalobos
The kidnapping in southern Philippines has obviously become a flourishing business, a trade which actually, has an historic background. Before the Spaniards came to the shores of the archipelago, kidnapping was already among the undertakings of the inhabitants. That was the reason why the swift “vinta” was built. This kind of sleek seagoing vessel of the kidnappers was mentioned by Spanish chroniclers in history books. Kidnappers would sail as far north as the Visayan waters to conduct raids of coastal villages. In fairness to them, however, not only were they involved in this kind of “trade”, as even before the Christian era, kidnapping was also a way of life of the barbarians in the northern continents and Africa. Decapitating of the captive was also the usual ultimate action to obtain the prize which was the head, during the inter-racial wars in those regions. Practically, kidnapping was being done around the world, long ago, and is still, until today. Some countries are just discreet about this. On the other hand, in the Philippines, kidnapping has been emphasized with the emergence of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
The ASG, thought to be based in Basilan and Sulu in southern Mindanao has sub-groups spread throughout the other islands and victims are passed on to them to waylaid the authorities. The members are well-melded with the communities where their families live. The Abu Sayyaf members live a dual life – as ordinary villagers and bandits. While waiting for ransoms, they are with their families, taking care of their babies or doing other chores. When there is a need to refurbish their dwindling cache of victims, they carry high-powered guns. How can the military, therefore, drop bombs down the villages where supposedly ASG members have been sighted, though, in the company of their wives and babies? The thick forests in the identified areas should not be used as alibis for the failure of the military to completely eradicate the ASG.
The main reason for the hesitance of the military to embark on drastic operations is obviously, humanistic. During interviews, military spokesmen always speak of their “intelligence” furnishing them with information on the location of the bandits, but why do they fail to flush out these bandits from their lair?….it’s because the military is afraid that innocents shall be caught in the crossfire!…and, the military will time and again, earn the ire of the so-called “humane groups” for killing “innocent civilians”!…and, the military will time and again, be lambasted by the Commission on Human Rights!
The only way, though, a harsh move, but with a humane touch, therefore, is to evacuate first, whole villages to “sanitized areas” under the protection of the military so that the movement of their male members can be monitored. Only then, can the military have a free hand in dropping bombs and bombarding areas where the bandits hole themselves up based on the information furnished by the military “intelligence”.
Peace has a price, costly and oftentimes inhuman. Peace was not obtained during the WWII until Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed. To obtain peace, there must always be a victor so that total control can be imposed to the vanquished. In the case of kidnapping in Mindanao committed by the ASG, such flourishing “trade” shall not be stopped, if the Philippine government will always succumb to “cautions” from the so-called “humane groups”, for the military to be very extra careful, to spare the “innocents”. Are the “innocents” being referred to by the “humane groups”, the villagers/families/relatives who protect the bandits? Have not the “humane groups” ever thought of the plight of the kidnap victims who are bound to be decapitated if they are not ransomed? Would these “humane groups” just want kidnapping to continue as it has virtually taken root too deeply, thereby, UNFAIRLY tainting the southern Philippines’ Islamic culture as the ASG members are all Muslims? It must be noted that the Filipino Muslims in general abhor such hideous act which for them is un-Islamic.