CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao, Philippines – The military and police would recommend to Malacañang to put up big rewards to hasten the arrest of more than 20 “new kidnappers” involved in the recent kidnappings of five Filipino-Chinese traders in Central Mindanao.
Brig. Gen. Rey Ardo, the newly installed commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they are also preparing along with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police and the anti-crime Joint Task Force Kutawato a new “order of battle” for kidnappers in Maguindanao, which syndicates use as jump-off point for their activities and where they hold their victims.
Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, ARMM police director, said there is an immediate need to update the list of kidnappers in Central Mindanao due to the involvement of “new faces” in the recent kidnappings in the region.
“These kidnappers, according to our informants from the local Muslim communities, are younger, much bolder than those listed as wanted in the old order of battle for kidnappers,” Ardo said.
Ardo, however, said the 6th ID and the ARMM police can only recommend the putting up of rewards for kidnappers and that there is a special board in the national government that acts and decides on such a recommendation.
“In the meantime, the 6th ID, as member of the anti-crime Joint Task Force Kutawato, will just have to impose tactical measures to stave off kidnappings in areas under its jurisdiction,” Ardo said.
Ardo said the 6th ID will also closely coordinate with the ceasefire committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to hasten efforts to neutralize the “neophyte” kidnap gangs that have emerged in Central Mindanao in recent months.
The government and MILF, under a 1997 ceasefire accord, are enjoined to mutually cooperate in addressing criminality in flashpoint areas.
Ardo and Latag both declined to name the more than 20 new kidnappers involved in the recent kidnappings in Central Mindanao pending the completion of all documentations on their backgrounds and exact identities.
The latest of the five kidnap victims in the region, So Ken Chew Mantigue, was rescued after two-week captivity in Kabuntalan, Maguindanao before dawn Monday by 6th ID operatives and MILF guerillas supervised by the ceasefire committee of the rebel group.
Mantigue was tending the pay counter of her family’s grocery store in North Upi, Maguindanao when four men, disguised as customers, dragged and forced her into a getaway car parked nearby and spirited her to Kabuntalan, a known lair of kidnappers.