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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Lucrative business

The Philippine Star

The Australian government has a no-ransom policy, but no one could stop the family of Australian teacher Warren Rodwell from paying ransom to the Abu Sayyaf for his release. Basilan Vice Gov. Al-Rasheed Sakalahul confirmed yesterday that Rodwell, who was snatched on Dec. 5, 2011 in Zamboanga, was freed early Saturday in exchange for P4 million paid by his family.

The Philippine government is also supposed to observe a no-ransom policy. Ransom payments mostly to the Abu Sayyaf, however, have made kidnapping a lucrative business in Mindanao since the 1990s. At the height of a kidnapping spree targeting mostly foreigners, an Abu Sayyaf band based in Sulu led by Ghalib Andang, a.k.a. Commander Robot, reportedly earned over $30 million in ransom, making him dream of buying an orchard upon retirement from banditry.

Andang never realized his dream, losing a leg in an encounter with government forces and later his life in a prison riot. But the ransom payments allowed his band to buy motorcycles and supplies for their jungle lairs in Sulu. No ransom was ever recovered. The province was awash with reports, never confirmed, of government and military officials getting a share of the huge payments. Similar stories circulated when the main Abu Sayyaf group based in Basilan raided a Palawan resort and kidnapped guests including Americans.

The no-ransom policy is observed by those who believe rewarding criminals can only encourage more attacks. In some cases, ransom is paid, but only if there is some degree of certainty that the money not only will be recovered but will also lead to the arrest of the kidnappers.

In the case of Rodwell, the government must see to it that the official confirmation of the P4-million ransom payment will not trigger another kidnapping spree in Mindanao. The best way to do this is to catch Rodwell’s kidnappers and recover the money. If the government does not want a resurgence of kidnappings, it must send a strong message that crime does not pay.

vuukle comment

ABU SAYYAF

AL-RASHEED SAKALAHUL

ANDANG

BASILAN

BASILAN VICE GOV

COMMANDER ROBOT

GHALIB ANDANG

MINDANAO

RANSOM

RODWELL

WARREN RODWELL

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