From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 25): Military suspects abductors from Sulu
In this April 5, 2010, file photo, government troopers search an area near the house of 72-year-old Charlie Reith in the southern port city of Zamboanga, where he was abducted by at least five gunmen on board three outrigger. The military is looking into reports that the gunmen who abducted three Westerners and a Filipino woman from Samal Island in Davao del Norte province on the night of Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, are from Sulu province, a senior military officer said on Thursday, Sept. 24. AP PHOTO
The military is looking into reports that the gunmen who abducted three Westerners and a Filipino woman from Samal Island in Davao del Norte province on Monday night are from Sulu province, a senior military officer said on Thursday.
Around 800 policemen and elite Army troops, backed by the Philippine Navy and the Philippine Coast Guard, were pressing the search for the gunmen, who may have taken their victims to Sulu.
The abductors are believed to be a group from Sulu, according to Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command chief.
“It might be possible that the primary suspect is the Abu Sayyaf group but I would not immediately conclude that it is they … It’s possible that it’s a group not the Abu Sayyaf but wanting to make money,” Baladad said.
Baladad did not provide details of ongoing operations for the rescue of Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Maritess Flor, whom the gunmen snatched from Holiday Oceanview Marina on Samal Island on Monday night.
He said, however, that the military had a “good lead” on the kidnappers’ moves and whereabouts in eastern Mindanao.
Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the military had a cartographic sketch of one of the kidnappers, based on the statement of a Japanese tourist who was nearly abducted at the resort on Monday night.
Technical experts were also reviewing video from the security camera at the resort, enhancing the images to capture clear pictures of the gunmen, he said.
Padilla said the pursuit operations were mostly in Davao, where the gunmen and their captives were reportedly sighted.
Good leads not divulged
“We have good leads as to the location but we cannot divulge this,” Padilla said.
Sources from the military intelligence service said the gunmen could be from Sulu and may have taken the victims there.
The leader of the group could be Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a subcommander of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, the sources said.
Sawadjaan is in his 60s and commands a group of Abu Sayyaf members who are orphans of slain commanders and fighters of the terrorist group, the sources said.
The members of Sawadjaan’s group are mostly in their 20s, the sources said.
The sources said military agents received information that a white speedboat docked at Barangay (village) Kaunayan in Patikul, Sulu, on Tuesday night.
On the boat were known members of the Abu Sayyaf and with them were three Caucasians and a woman whose hands were tied, the sources said.
In an interview with Radyo Inquirer on Thursday, Padilla confirmed an intelligence report published by the Inquirer about a threat to abduct foreigners on Samal Island, but said the report was “two years old.”
The intelligence report obtained by the Inquirer was dated Aug. 22 this year, issued by a foreign security agency based in the Philippines and working for multinational companies in the country.
Told that the old kidnapping plan could have been revived and carried out on Sept. 21, Padilla said, “We are not discounting that possibility.”
Another source said the Patikul group of the Abu Sayyaf worked with the Sibuco group of the terrorist organization, which cased Holiday Oceanview Marina on Samal Island.
“Last month, people arrived in Davao and went to Samal, posing as fishermen,” the source said.
Those people were from Sibugay and their leader was known as Commander Waning, who operated in Zamboanga and Davao, the source said.
Supt. Antonio Rivera, spokesman for the Southern Mindanao Police Office, said an Army battalion and a Scout Rangers company were pursuing the kidnappers in the mountains of Davao Oriental province.
“Helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft from the Air Force are conducting air patrols,” Rivera said.
Rivera said, however, that the authorities still had no definite information about the identities of the kidnappers.
As of Thursday, he said, the police and the military were still looking into the possibility that the kidnappers were either the communist New People’s Army (NPA) or a Moro rebel group called Bangsamoro Army or the Abu Sayyaf.
The Bangsamoro Army is an alleged splinter group of the Moro National Liberal Front.
The NPA has not issued a statement about the Samal kidnappings.
Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman for the military’s Eastern Command, said the “probability of the success” of the rescue operation was “very high.”
Caber said that based on “information about sightings,” the kidnappers and their victims were still in the Davao region.
“We cannot say where, because that would be like telling the suspects that we know where they are,” Caber said.
He said the military did not have information that the victims had been taken to the mountains of Southern Mindanao.
But another military officer, who asked not to be identified for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the rescue operations were focused on Davao del Sur and Sarangani provinces.
“It’s not in Davao Oriental or Compostela Valley,” the officer said.
Senior Supt. Federico Dulay, head of the Special Investigation Task Group Oceanview, said information had been received about sightings in Davao del Sur, but this was unverified.
“[Beyond] Davao del Sur is Sarangani, which is [Central Mindanao,” Dulay said.
He refused to disclose the locations of the sightings, as these needed verification.
But the lack of quorums in the Lower House has continued to haunt those who appear to be pushing for it. The spoilers led by Congressmen Celso Lobregat dug-in for the continuing showdown. They know that their number one ally is the conscripting time left for the passage of the bill.
Certainly, only the commitment of President Aquino keeps the ember of hope still alive. So far no one in government has ever said the BBL is already dead on track. But if one compares this commitment with what is happening in both Houses, especially in the Lower House, the least that can be said is that the BBL is passing through the proverbial eye of the needle.
Of course, in the Senate, it is moving. Senate President Franklin Drilon and most, if not all, of the senators, are in good cooperation mode. But the main obstacle is the kind of the substitute bill introduced by Senator Bongbong Marcos. The deliberation could have been faster if he had not only crafted his version of the BBL from out of the blue. He set aside almost completely the original BBL, which was crafted on the basis of the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Again, in the Senate version, the original BBL has been severely diluted or revised, and many of the provisions thereof were deleted to make it way far below the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Worse, there are deletions or additions that are clearly unconstitutional; for instance, “inland waters” which are already conferred to the ARMM by law was deleted. Republic Act Number 9054 provides that the Regional Government has authority, power, and right to explore, develop, and utilize the natural resources, including surface and sub-surface rights, inland and coastal waters, and renewable and non-renewable resources in the autonomous region. The other is about the “sultanates rights”. The sultanates embody the political structure of the Moros’ self-governing past, and for this reason, the MILF wants it preserved but it will not revive it, but whoever wants it revived, the MILF will not stand on the way. In fact, the MILF can even offer some constructive ideas, if necessary. But to enshrine this in law, such as in the proposed law in the Senate, is problematic, nay dangerous, because it violates the constitutional principle that the state will not recognize the title of nobility or royalty.
According to legal luminaries, the Supreme Court will not only rule on the unconstitutionality of any provision of a proposed law that confers power, authority, or right to an entity, say the Bangsamoro, more than what the Constitution provides but if the same entity is given less than what the Constitution provides the Supreme Court will also rule (against it). The deletion of “inland waters” as among the powers already given to the ARMM may appear innocently proposed, but this has negative impact on the proposed law. Similarly, proposing to recognize the “sultanates rights” appears to be a good gesture especially to the heirs of the Sultanates of Sulu, who lobbied for it vigorously, but did it ever come to anybody’s mind that this will surely be stricken out by the Supreme Court?
If in the end, the BBL does not pass, who is going to be blamed or do we need to blame anyone? Of course, many people blamed the Mamasapano Incident on January 25. But this incident was not an accident; it had all the signatures of a deliberate plan. The debate as to which is primary, peace-making or “war on terror” showed its ugly face here. While we never doubted that the government has firmly hold on to the “primacy of the peace process” but that fateful moment the “unanticipated” happened. To this day, we are still reeling from its devastating effects.