Relentless military operations have prevented the resurgence of kidnapping in Mindanao.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said recent reports of kidnapping could be the handiwork of mid-level Abu Sayyaf leaders who are out to make a living.
“These sub-leaders are doing their own way of living. It’s the handiwork of those... who commission their contacts to snatch victims and likely bargain even for a small ransom,” Sobejana said.
He said the incidents have ”significantly reduced” if not prevented in the last three years.
In 2015 and 2016, the number of captives reached 30, most of them foreign fishermen and sailors, who were taken by pirates and handed over the Abu Sayyaf.
“It is sad that most of the kidnappings occurred in the waters off Malaysia and the victims were brought to our place,” Sobejana said.
He said military offensives, particularly in Sulu, have prevented the bandits from making the island as its holding place for their captives.
Sobejana said trilateral maritime operations at the common border of Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines also prevented Abu Sayyaf leaders and their followers from hijacking foreign vessels and taking their crewmembers as captives.
While the kidnapping of three Indonesian fishermen in the waters off Sabah on Sept. 23 were confirmed perpetrated by Abu Sayyaf bandits, the kidnappers of a couple taken in Zamboanga del Sur on Oct. 4 have yet to be determined.