Kidnapping in Sulu continues unabated. It is unstoppable. It is fast becoming another Somalia, this time in Southeast Asia. Instead of being stopped or even minimized, it has soared to unprecedented height with the kidnapping recently of 10 Indonesians and four Malaysians, who are all Muslims.
Seriously, if this crime assumes like an ordinary thing, and people especially the leaders treat it as no evil at all or care less --- and government becomes helpless and an unassuming --- then expect the wrath of God to hit everybody else. The closing of the Philippine-Sabah borders for travel and trade is perchance the start of this punishment, which hits not only the kidnappers but more hardly the innocent and good people of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Consequently, the price of basic commodities shoots up and almost doubled the original price especially of rice.
Why is this criminal activity not stopped, in spite of the heavy militarization of Sulu province, in addition to being the bastion of the MNLF and the havens of private armies of politicians, whose arsenals include bazookas and machineguns? We don’t think there is popular acceptance --- that would never come into our mind. It is also highly unfair to ever think of collusion, or this kidnapping has already reached the highest notch of becoming a syndicate, which involves everybody, but government must assert its authority, the MNLF under Chairman Nur Misuari must take its moral responsibility to do its share, big or small, and the politicians, who are all Muslims must not fall short of their duty and obligation. (The MILF is still trying to consolidate both its political and military organs in Sulu, but nonetheless, we have had already done modest contributions in freeing some of the kidnapped victims in the past. But our greatest deficit is that when ransom is discussed, we dissociate ourselves from it).
It is hard to admit by government, but the truth is that the military and Police are virtually rendered ineffective against the kidnap-for-ransom groups in Sulu or even in the small island of Basilan. On the part of the MNLF and the Sulu politicians, either they are doing little to contain kidnapping or they care less for this. We are sure there are those who are really committed to help eradicate this menace, but their efforts are virtually unheard of and do not make any difference. In such a case, there is a need to upgrade and up-charge their intervention.
In Central Mindanao especially Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Cotabato City kidnapping has been neutralized so far. The reasons for this success are two-fold: The MILF does not compromise with kidnappers and the working relationship between the government military and the MILF through the mechanism of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) in defeating kidnapping is excellent.
The final truth, however, is that no matter how we overstretch our muscles, kidnapping would not go away completely, as long as the Bangsamoro Question is not settled with finality. The dissatisfaction and frustration of the people over government’s dilly-dallying in resolving the conflict gives space to those fighting the government. For instance, call the ASG any name or dark description, but they still tried to couch their kidnapping activities with political symbols or colours such as: Grant Sulu its independence, pull-out the military from the province, and completely disallow fishermen from other islands especially the Visayas and Marikina to fish in the Sulu Sea. Perchance this is just to justify their crime, but they are still political in character.