Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kidnapping for Ransom,Last Quarter of 2010:The Philippine National Sport: Kidnapping for Ransom

Ok, I admit, Electoral Violence IS the actual National Sport. Indeed, I have said as much myself in my numerous longwinded posts devoted to the queer spectacle known as "Philippine Politics." But really, think about it, there is not much of a contest watching 2 (or more) candidates for Barangay Kagwad beating each other's brains in...or shooting each other's brains out...or, well you get the jist of it. With KFR (Kidnap for Ransom) the highest ransom wins. A far simpler version might be called, "Great Day, Not so Great Day." This entry's contestants:

December 14, 2010 was a " great day" for Cecillia Sosas. Back on November 15, 2010, Ms.Sosas, the Vice Principal of Baas Elementary School in Barangay Baas, Lamitan, Basilan Island was standing with teacher Merlyn Yacatip,  when 6 gunmen forced the 2 women out of the school just before 11AM. Naturally those who witnessed it immediately called authorities and  a composite force of the AFP's 32IB (Infantry Battalion) and PNP-PMG#1518 (Philippine National Police-Police Mobile Group#1518) were deployed in pursuit of the kidnappers. As the Blocking Forces took position, the kidnappers, later confirmed to be ASG's (Abu Sayyaf Group) Jamiri Faction, deployed a simple diversionary tactic, they released Ms.Yacatip just before noon in Sitio Manuk, Barangay Talon, Tuburan, just across the border from the municipality of Mohammad Ajul.

The ASG gunmen then worked their way to the shoreline of Tuburan where a motor banca (a local style wooden boat) carrying 3 more guerillas took custody of Ms.Sosas. She was then taken by sea to to the municipality of Sumisip where another band of gunmen took custody of her and as night fell brought her into Barangay Luuk-Bait where she was dropped off at a house. After the homeowner divested her of her jewlery, including her wedding ring, she was basically left to her own terrified thoughts until the evening of November 17. Told that the barangay would be having a fiesta the next day Ms.Sosas and that the chance of discovery was too great. To try and avoid detection her captor led the blindfolded Ms.Sosas to a patch of jungle on the outskirts of the barangay where hidden by vegetation, she spent the next 15 days living exposed to the elements.

On the evening of December 03 she was taken under the cover of darkness to an abandoned jungle nipa (bamboo and thatched palm leaf dwelling). There she was handcuffed to 1 of the interior log supports though her right arm remained free. She was given sufficient water, food and a bed pan, which was left within reach. Alone all day, a solitary guard would come each night to replenish her sustenance and empty her waste. Other than that she was simply warned against making noise and told to wait.

On Tuesday, December 14, at 7PM her guard returned earlier than usual and blindfolded her. Leading her to a waiting motorcycle whose driver was idling, she was told to hold on tightly. At roughly 730PM her driver stopped, helped her dismount and led her to 1 of 2 idling motorcycles. After her intial driver departed they left that site and continued until reaching in Barangay Lagayas, Tipo Tipo near the border of Barangay Cabangalan in the neighbouring town of Ungkaya Pukan. There she was helped off the motorcycle and warned not to attempt to remove her blindfold until she could no longer hear the motorcycles. After nearly a month Cecillia Sosas was free and re-united with her family.

That same evening, Tuesday, December 14, 2010, at exactly the time Ms.Sosas was being helped astride the initial motorcycle that would take her to freedom, 21 year old Mary Cris Cuartocruz was about to have a "not so great day." Sitting at home in Sitio Kilometer#26 in Zamboanga City's Barangay Manihacan, the young lady might have been imagining the huge changes that would take place in her life once her paperwork came through for her nursing job in New Zealand. Her father is an OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker, Filipinos who work in foreign nations), so she was at home alone with her mother, a rice trader, when 4 gunmen burst through the door of her home. As her mother began screaming for help 1 of the 4 gun men smacked her until she was subdued. Very rapidly the men moved Mary outside where 6 more gunmen kept watch. Alerted by his daughter and grandadaughter's screams, 72 year old Jesus Sogradiel ran from his home next door only to be shot to death with an M16. The gunmen, now known to be MILF guerillas with 113 Base Command, moved the young lady to the shore of that barangay where she then disappeared into the abyss.

It was a "very good day" for 19 year old Alcher"Archie"Baricuatro and his 18 year old girlfriend Sheila May Vidal. Very late in the evening of Monday, December 06, 2010, the young lovers snuck out of their respective dormitories on the Marawi City Campus of MSU (Mindanao State University) in Lanao del Sur Province. Archie, majoring in Agricultural Engineering and Sheila Mae, a Hotel and Resturant Management Major held their late night rendevouz on the deserted grounds of the university's dairy farm in Barangay Lomdiong-Salam . I should say "almost deserted" because as the young lovers strolled hand in hand back to their dorms  the next morning they were waylaid by a band of gunmen led by Selik Muslimen and Machol Sabtulah who themselves work for the Jamail Pumbaya KFR (Kidnap for Ransom) Group centered in Poona Piagapo, Lanao del Norte Province.

Kidnapped at 830AM on Tuesday, December 07, by noon the couple was saying goodbbye to each other in a house located on the border of the afore mentioned town of Poona Piagapo and the town of Saguiaran, over the provincial border in Lanao del Sur after initially having been taken to Ramain, Lanao del Sur. Ms.Vidal was moved to a house in Poona Piagapo's Barangay Gacap while Baricuatro was taken to a house in the town of Balo-i in Lanao del Norte and there they remained as MSU frantically tried to keep this out of the media. The school's President, Dr.Macapado Abaton was so terrified of the media that he refused to even notify the families who had the shock of their lives when the story finally surfaced on Friday, December 10.

The Vidal family are from Butuan City, in Agusan del Norte Province while the Baricuatro family is from Kapatagan in Lanao del Norte Province. Both families are Seventh Day Adventists but the couple only met this year at school. Another thing both families have in common is the fact that both are far from wealthy and had no hope of paying the final ransom of P100,000 per person  (2,000 US per) , much less the initial
P1 Million Pesos (22,000 US). The payoff ended up coming from MSU. Since there really isn't any type of torte liability as one finds in the West it is certain that Dr.Abaton was merely trying to save the school budget some money in the short term (since he was well aware that the school almost always pays the ransom of its students and staff and once it reaches the media cachet grows as the abductees get sold up the food chain). MSU has been targetted numerous times, the last case I know of personally was in October of 2008 when the school's. Budget Director, Hipolito Mendoza was kidnapped in the afore mentioned town of Saguiaran's Barangay Bubong (in Lanao del Sur Province). Saguiaran of course is the town where 1 of the 2 young people I am discussing were held as well. Mendoza was kidnapped by this same group. The leader, Jamail Pumbaya is a sub-Kumander (Deputy Commander) with the MILF 102 Base Command, under Kumander Bravo. After MSU paid the 200,000 Pesos the couple were both released in that same town of Poona Piagapo, on Tuesday, December 15, 2010, at 5AM.


It was a VERY "great day" for Edgar T.Cuajao. The 27 year old paint salesman was out buying bread (I didn't even know you can smoke"bread," go figure) in Barangay Kauswagan, Cagayan del Oro City in Misamis Oriental Province when a group of gunmen under Ali Acbar Dagalangit who forced Cuajao to drive his own Toyota Vios to Dagalangit's hometown of Lumba Bayabao, in Lanao del Sur Province. The Toyota was found abandoned in the town the next evening, Sunday, December 12. Intemediaries approached Dagalangit's grandfather, (Ret) LTC (PA) (Retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Philippine Army) Felipino Dagalangit along with Mayor Gambai Dagalangit, a clansman of Ali's.
In the end Mr.Cuajao was released sans ransom so he had the best day so far, don't you think? I told you this was an easy game!

OK, OK, one more contestant but hers is a bit different. 53 year old Eufemia Trocio of Barangay San Miguel in Lanao del Norte Province's Iligan City who because she borrowed 300,000 Pesos
(6,200 US) and then would not, or perhaps could not pay it back, was kidnapped on November 03, 2010 and held in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur Province. Her family was promptly contacted but when they failed to get the ransom lowered by November 22,  decided to have her brother Edmundo Silang report the abduction to the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). On Tuesday, December 14 she too was released after pressure was applied to Marawi's Mayor, Fahad"Pre"Salic who then miraculously had Ms.Trocio delivered to the NBI Regional Office (I will let you think about that one).

November 04, 2010 was much like any other day. William Ang Go, a 55 year old Tsinoy rice and corn miller and the owner of a commercial truck scale, all located within his "Mincorn" compound on Leon Llido Street in Barangay Lagao in GenSan (General Santos City). Mr. Go drove his 1997 Toyota Corolla to his business, also known as "Mandayao Trading," after first stopping for petrol, where as he always bought 2 liters of gasoline. His frugal ways usually earned Go derision but today they just might have saved his life.

At 2PM, 4 men riding tandem on 2 motorcycles drove into the yard. The men riding on the back of each motorcycle then grabbed Mr,Go and forced him into his own Corolla. Pulling out of the compound the Corolla and the the 2 motorcycles, 1 in front and the other following the car, sped north on General Santos-Cotabato National Hiway. Almost immediately General Santos PNP were notified and engaged in a vehicular pursuit. At almost 6PM a team led by PO2 Sasi sighted the Cirolla by the side of a street in Barangay San Jose, 30 kilometers north of Go's compound but still within GenSan city limits. As the PNP approached on foot the lone assailant guarding Go spotted the police and quickly escaped. Go was found shocked but in good health. His car had run out of fuel, preserving his freedom and possibly his life.

November 02, 2010, Rosabella"Rose"Barranda was on a jeepney returning to her home in Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip on Basilan Island fromthe town of  Lamitan where she had attended a Bible Study early that morning. The 60 year old woman suffering from both diabetes and hypertension had immersed herself in religion since her husband had passed away in 2009. Though she owned a
sari-sari (small general store) on a rubber plantation in her barangay, she spent most of her waking hours at Tumsbuhong Alliance Church where she was a Church Leader. Taken from the jeepney by 6 guerillas from the ASG-Jamiri Faction she was held, at least intially, at a house in the town of al Barka.

At 3AM the next morning, November 03, the family received an SMS (text) from Rose's phone demanding a ransom of 3 Million Pesos (66,000 US). When this figure was rejected and upon investigation the guerillas discovered they had kidnapped a widow with very few assets, ASG attempted a fast sell, demanding 1 Million Pesos (22,000 US) and 2 brand new M16s, each equipped with grenade launchers.

Ms.Barranda is known to be in the custody of a group under sub-Kumander Hud Limaya. A list of guerillas under Limaya:

Abdurasan Limaya

Sapata Limaya

Ustadz Mahmud Tujajin

Botchoy Mastiri

Gaisal Abdulsattar

Malista Nalangka

Abubakar Palinta

Tikih Palinta


October 30, 2010, in Barangay San Jose, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, 55 year old Babet"Nania"Gomonit, a retired teacher was putting her 10 year old grandson Cekim to bed just before 11PM when 3 gunmen and 1 woman invaded the home. Other family members present were hogtied as Babet and Cekim were taken from the home and placed in the family's Isuzu Trooper which the 4 kidnappers then used to escape, driving towards the town of Labangan. The next morning, October 31, the SUV was discovered abandoned in Barangay Sugod, Tukuan, in that same province. Babet's husband is the owner of a large construcrion business though interestingly, there hasn't been a single communication with either the kidnappers OR the 2 victims. In addition, the 4 people who entered the home were Cebuanos (aka"Bisaya, as is the family affected) so that it seems not to have been KFR at all but perhaps family related.


On October 10, 2010 in Barangay Bus Bus, Jolo City, Jolo Island in Sulu Province, 21 year old Tsinoy (I will explain in the next case below exactly what that term means) Kenn"Kenny"Klefford Lao, a student in Jolo City's Notre Dame was reportedly excited as he gushed to classmates that he was going outside the campus to meet an anonymous "textmate" (the Philippines is the #1 consumer worldwide for SMS Messaging, aka"Texting."Many young Filipinos randomly dial numbers and begin friendships and even romances in this manner...It is not considered unusual in the least). As Lao exited the campus and stood in front of Notre Dame Cathedral he was kidnapped by ASG, though the exact faction now holding him remains unclear. The initial faction was a minor one, led by an ambitious man, Kumander Basaron Arok. Holding Lao in the faction's main camp in the jungle between Barangays Tanum and Maligay within the municipal boundries of Patikul on Jolo Island. Having asked Lao's family, who like virtually all Tsinoy have told the authorities to mind their own business, for a ransom of 3 Million Pesos (66,000 US) and been told they won't pay that much (bargaining is a de riguer part of the process), the faction is known to have sold Lao up the food chain.

On October 08, 2010, at 530PM on a Friday evening, Conchita Atienza Tan was sitting in the backseat while her husband Lucio rode by her side as one of their bodyguards, Richard Emberga, drove the couple home with a second bodyguard, former AFP Marine Eduardo"Alvin"Doruelo riding shotgun . As leading members of the Cotabato City Tsinoy Community ("Tsinoy" is a bastardisation of the words"Cheneta"for"Chinese" and"Pinoy" for"Filipino,"the same no matter the language or dialect though sometimes the word"Chinoy"is also used) they were well used to heavy security precautions. Though the Chinese have been in these islands since at least the 11th Century CE/AD they are perrenial outsiders. Until Independance they were forbidden from owning land, from working most occupations or intermarrying with non-Chinese and so they have evolved into an extremely insular culture that has carved a niche for itself as traders and businesspeople. The problem with such a niche is that it tends to inspire extreme resentment. The Philippines is an extremely poor nation and Mindanao is its poorest island. Noone sees poor Chinese because this very insular community takes care of its own so that in the end they are jealousy perceived as universally wealthy. They are realists, pragmatists but their pragmatism also paints them into a corner in that their tendency to see a ransom as the cost of doing business simply perpetuates their constant victimisation. All the more so when Tsinoy have an inherent distrust in the Philippine political system and would rarely consider even approaching a Philippine police department, let alone let them handle a delicate personal (or alternatively a business matter) matter such as a kidnappimg.

The Tans own the largest hardware slash feed store in Cotabato City, "LCT Hardware," on Don Rufino Alonzo Street and so always travel with at least 3 bodyguards. As their SUV turned onto Quezon Ave from the city's bustling shopping district with a third bodyguard driving a chase car behind them (a 2nd vehicle with which to make a quick exit should attackers target the SUV, or alternatively, to give chase should someone be dragged into an attacker's vehicle) and was but 30 meters from the Tan family home, 6 men armed with M16s stepped out of the evening shadows. 4 men stayed towards the rear, boxing the chase car in as the 2 other gunmen moved forward on either side of the SUV. Getting to the front seat each gunmen simultaneously used the stock of their M16 to break the windows. Before either Doruelos or Emberga could react both were shot in the head. Doruelos, the lead bodyguard for the couple, was killed instantly while Emberga died a few minutes later as he bled out (but was instantly incapacitated.).

From Magallanes Street, the street where the Tans live, a Toyota Corolla and a Toyota Tamaraw FX screeched to a halt beside the 2 Tan vehicles. Dragging a screaming Ms.Tan from the SUV and placing her quickly inside the Corolla, the 2 get away vehicles peeled out and sped towards Abbey Road, the street leading them out of Barangay Rosary Heights, the Tan's neighbourhood.

That night the Corolla was recovered abandoned, empty apart from a single RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) round, next to the Rio Grande (Pulangi River), the river separating the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao. The kidnappers had taken Ms.Tan aboard a pumpboat and transported her down stream to the municipality of Kabuntulan in Maguindanao. Cotabato City's new mayor, Japal Guiani Jr. immediately issued Executive Order#19, creating Task Force Conchita (TF Conchita) and appointed the CO (Commanding Officer) of the 603rd Infantry Brigade as his co-Chairman.

As is so often the case the MILF was accused of having a hand in the murder-kidnapping (I wonder why, I mean, even the AFP doesnt have RPGs) and as usual claimed it was highly offended. The MILF Central Committee then issued an immediate Directive to all Base Commands (a Base Command is more or less equal to a single battalion in terms of manpower) to assist in the search for Ms.Tan and to coordinate movements with the AFP so as to avoid an inadvertant firefight as they searched. As it turned out the Tans paid their matriarch's ransom post haste and she was released before daylight on Friday, October 15, 2010 on General Santos- Cotabato Hiway in the municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat, near the border of Talayan in Maguindanao Province, and was picked up by a brother-in-law to be reunited with a grateful family. Of course Mr Doruelos and Mr.Embarga had no such reunion but that goes without saying.


Interestingly, and quite telling, it was on October 01 that Yu Beng Chua, President of the Cotabato City Chapter of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce added his voice to the multitude asking for a re-deployment of AFP Marines to the city to stem the tide of KFRs taking place with regard to Cotabato City Tsinoys. In the late 1990s when the GRP-MNLF Peace Process reached what was believed to be a Final Settlement in that (then) 24 year old insurgency with the inking of the so called, "Jakarta 1996 Agreement." That document put thousands of MNLF guerillas out of work. More than a few became involved in organised kidnapping groups and so the Tsinoy of the region became easy pickings. The AFP Marines deployed an element to the city and the situation stabalised though it had practically nothing to do with the Marines.

Haris Daud, a Maguindanowan Tribesman from Parang, Maguindanao Province will probablly never want to cross into Lanao del Sur Province again. In late August Haris, whose surname was erroneously reported as "Lidasan," was minding his own business when an irate group of Maranaw (Maranaon) Tribesmen kidnapped him at an impromptu roadblock. They then tried to barter Haris' life for an Toyota Vios van that had been impounded by the municipal PNP of Parang, Haris' hometown. Instead of returning the van, Haris' clansmen simply travelled into Lanao del Sur Province and set up their own roadblock in the town of Matanog. It didn't take long at all until 2 vans with a toyal of 7 Maranaw men fell into their trap and voila...The Maranaw holding Haris agreed to accept their 7 brethren in exchange for Haris. As an initial gesture (important in both cultures) the Daud Clan released 2 of the Maranaw men. Haris was then released on September 14, 2010 and when he crossed the provincial border the other 5 Maranaw were driven to the provincial line and released. The van remained in Parang.

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