Last week, a top ABS-CBN reporter and her newscrew went to interview the AbuSayyaf, to see their side of the story. Accompanied by a local University Professor and “peace activist”, they were promptly kidnapped.

No surprise there. The AbuSayyaf has kidnapped lots of “High profile” people to raise money to pay their men and make bombs. With the cut off of funds from “charities”, they have had to resort to old fashioned ways to raise money, such as kidnapping and extortion. Kidnapping priests and reporters seem to be a good way to do it, since businessmen have body guards and might shoot back.

Both the government and the TV network have a “no ransom” policy, but that never stopped families from paying, and no one was surprised when the lovely Ces and her newscrew were released a few days later. Oh, no, no ransom, she claimed. No ransom said ABS CBN. No ransom said everyone.

Then last night, while watching a rival network, sure enough. Photos of money being counted.

Her family paid, of course.

But then, the story gets complicated.

The cops figured the kidnapping wasn’t exactly a spontaneous event (she was not detained at the meeting, but kidnapped on the way there, meaning someone was watching the road). So who to blame? The professor/peace activist was the first one suspected, but soon cleared. So were those in the news crew.

But now a new twist to the story.

The negotiating local mayor, who acted as a private “go between” between family and kidnappers is the main suspect. An undercover agent was there, and reported that the mayor took a 3 million peso “cut” out of the five million peso ransom. (five million pesos is about 100 thousand dollars). It seems he needed it to fill his campaign coffers.

One has to explain bribes and kickbacks here. The usual cut is is twenty percent of a deal. A couple years ago, the intermediary taking ransom for an Italian priest disappeared with the entire ransom.

So when they mayor took a huge percent of the money,  (enough to make the kidnappers angry) this immediately raised suspicion he was in on the deal.

So while the police plan to show the public all their evidence, including that photo of the mayor helping to count the ransom money, the representatives of the various tribal insurgencies are saying: He’s innocent. Who do you believe, us or your lying eyes?

However, there is some worry that the mayor’s arrest will be used as an excuse to stop negotiations or to restart terror attacks, since the mayor is close to these groups.

And locals worry that the money will allow the AbuSayyaf to hire more locals as soldiers, and to finance bomb making to kill more locals.

Finally, although everyone is happy at the safe release of the lovely Ces, one of the local bishops (who works with the populist ElShaddai group) had a few tart words for her and other reporters who aggressively go after stories.

Manila bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr. said it is high time that terrorists who want to have their side heard be the ones to approach media and take the risk of being arrested.

“Let no one be lured again by lawless elements who may express a desire to air their side. If they really want to be heard, let them be the ones to take the risk. Let us not glamorize terrorists and bandits and give them a chance to inflict harm on our people,” Bacani said in his newspaper column in Manila Standard Today.

Yes, alas, it’s one thing to put oneself into danger, it’s another thing to be a patsy for criminals who kill people. The Abusayyaf have already bombed churches, fiestas, ferries, and buses, killing local civilians. One shudders at the thought of another bundle of money for them to continue their reign of terror.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind clinic and Fishmarket. 

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