ROUGH CUTS| Where a Duterte sortie is a must

DAVAO City Mayor and PDP-Laban presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte has secured the release last Monday of the five policemen and an army soldier who were abducted by the members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The policemen were abducted while investigating a report of rebel harassment on a military checkpoint in Paquibato district. On the other hand, the army soldier was nabbed by the NPA and held hostage in a remote area of a municipality in North Cotabato.

     But even as the police elements and the army soldier are back in the arms of their loved ones and in their respective units four other persons, three foreign nationals and a Filipina, abducted in a posh resort in Samal Island  City in Davao del Norte are not as lucky as the former hostages. The latter group has been held hostage by still unknown terrorist group since September 21, 2015 or roughly seven months already.

     In an earlier video grab the abductors were demanding P1 billion pesos ransom each in exchange for their release. But in the latest video uploaded the terrorists already reduced their ransom demand but set as their deadline for the pay-off last Monday April 25. They also warned the government that if ransom is not paid they will behead one of the hostages.

     Of course the government stuck to its policy of no negotiation with the terrorists and no payment of ransom. The hostage takers responded by making good their threat of beheading one of the hostages. Early last Tuesday morning it was reported that the head of John Ridsdel, the Canadian former official of TVI, a Canadian mining company operating in Zamboanga Sibugay, was found inside a bag abandoned along a dirt road in Sulu province.

     We don’t really know why, despite the long period of holding the victims the government, through its military and police, was unable to track down the location of the abductors and their victims. It appears that the military and police intelligence networks are not functioning effectively. There is no doubt that the government has allocated substantial resources to be able to mobilize its military and police intelligence communities.

     So, the question that hangs in every one’s mind is: how come nobody was able to feed the military and the police appropriate information that could have led the government authorities to the location of the abductors and their hostages?

     We hate to think of the possibility that the funds intended for information gathering activities may be diverted for other purposes by some scheming top military and police officials. Thus, what is left could be pittance that is far from enough to institute an effective information gathering strategy and make it work. It is even possible that at the ground level only those officials or probably the assigned head intelligence officers and their immediate subalterns in the community are allocating the intelligence budget for their personal use.

     Meanwhile, the terrorists could most likely be spending a sizeable portion of the ransom money they have accumulated over the years of their abduction business to buy the loyalty of the people in the community. And if we add the fact that most of the population in the provinces identified to be the lairs of the terrorist groups have the same faith as that of the latter, it is not difficult at all to believe that they’d rather protect the interest of their kind who are giving them better favors, monetary included, than the military and the police.

     So, it should not be surprising that the military and police authorities in the Western Mindanao region are left with their bags empty of any information on the whereabouts of the hostage takers of the Samal resort guests.

     Now the government is jolted into action with the beheading of the Canadian mining official. So much is the impact of the terrorist brutal murder of the hapless foreigner that the President suddenly showed a “Duterteish” character by ordering the military and the police to go all out against the armed bandits, rescue the hostages, and finish them off.

     Why only after seven months of the abduction? Is the president creating sound bites to show that he has the “it” of a brave leader?  Or, is he trying to appease the visibly disturbed Canadian Prime Minister who has condemned the brutal killing of one of its nationals?

     Meanwhile, we are hoping that Presidential candidate Duterte will still be able to visit Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi within the remaining days of the campaign period. We urge him to visit those places to show the people in those provinces that their areas are indeed still very much a part of the Republic of the Philippines. He must make them feel that he is one among them and that he is true to his commitment to correct the historical injustice heaped on the Moro people and their homeland.

     The Davao City mayor must prove to our Muslim brothers that despite the perceived danger attendant to visiting these three member provinces of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), going to their places to lay his plans for the Moro people is worth risking his life.

     Perhaps with his campaign sorties there, the mayor through intermediaries might be able to “connect” to the abductors and discuss ways of having the remaining hostages released.

     Moreover, a Duterte visit in those areas could be taken by the terrorist groups whose members are no doubt Moro people, as a manifestation of sincerity in his desire to give Mindanao its rightful due from its own government.

    That alone, is already a big breakthrough.

    Will Duterte still campaign in Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Basilan late this week or early next week? We hope he will. After all, if he is willing to go to any of the islands supposedly within Philippine territory now occupied by the Chinese soldiers and offers himself to be shot and killed instead of taking the risk of losing so many lives of Filipino soldiers in a shooting war, he should be more than willing to fly to the three Philippine provinces to talk with our fellow Filipinos there?

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