Monday, March 14, 2011

Kidnap for the First Quarter of 2011: Maria Chris "Maricris" Quatrocruz

One of the last kidnappings from 2010, a case I discussed in my previous entry on Kidnapping for Ransom (KFR), involved a 21 year old nurse from Zamboanga City's Barangay Manihican who was about to leave abroad as an OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) when her world was turned upside down. Maria Chris "Maricris" Quatrocruz had been talking with her mother in their home in Sitio Kilometer #21 when a group of gunmen kicked in their front door and began dragging Maricris outside. As her mother began screaming one of the men slapped her into submission, then made her reveal where a large amount of cash was. As Maricris was being dragged outdoors her maternal grandfather, Jesus Sogradiel Jr., a barangay tanod, or, barangay guard, ran next door to help. A gunman calmly raised his M16 and shot the 72 year old man to death.

Those who read that last KFR entry might remember that her hapless cousin Pedro Sogradiel Jr. was arrested in connection with this case. He had spent a lot of time drinking and gambling and wittingly or otherwise had bragged a bit too much about his sister's family. His sister, Maricris' mother, was supported quite well as her husband is an OFW, and Maricris was about to go abroad as well. Pedro's own brother in law, Rajak Campo, is a member of the BIAF, or Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, as the military wing of the MILF is known. A member of the 113 Base Command, he serves under sub-Kumander Waning Abdusalam whose camp is in the municipality of Payao in the adjacent province of Zamboanga Sibugay. That same day, Campo had brought two fellow guerillas and the three had spent the day feeding Pedro beer to loosen his lips.

Using the information Pedro provided the three men, assisted by later arrivals, attacked Maricris and her mother. After killing Maricris' grandfather, the men made their escape, captive in hand. Later,the get away vehicle was found by the shore of the barangay. Authorities discovered that the young woman had gone quietly aboard a pump boat (small motorised craft) and was last seen heading up the peninsula to the province of Zamboanga Sibugay. Initially asking 20 Million Pesos (400,000 Euros) for the ransom, euphimistically known as a "room and board fee" or "lodging fee," the amount was eventually whittled down to a comparatively low 1 Million Pesos (20,000 Euros). At 745PM on March 2nd, 2011, she was released to her mother who was escorted by her brother, PNP (Philippine National Police) PO2 (Police Officer 2nd Grade) Amel Sogradiel outside of Ipil, in Zamboanga Sibugay.

After the requisite medical examination and Intelligence Debriefing Maricris reluctantly sat for a press conference where she revealed to shocked onlookers that she had converted to Islam during her imprisonment. In the past, especially amongst women kidnapped by the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group), women have been raped and then declared lawfully married under Shari'a, or Islamic Law. Perhaps the most famous, and sad case, was that of a nurse kidnapped by ASG in the "Siege of Lamitan" in 2001. After kidnapping mostly foreign tourists at the "Dos Palmas" resort in Puerto Princessa, on Palawan, ASG made their way back to their home turf of Basilan. Landing there the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) began an ill fated pursuit that stupidly drove the terrorists and their captives into Basilan's second largest population centre, Lamitan City. Led by Khadaffy Janjalani and his cohorts Abu Sobaya (Adem Tilao) and Abu Solaiman, the large group entered and took over Dr.Torres Memorial Hospital which was then quickly cordoned off by the AFP.

Several hours later, just prior to daybreak, the ASG left with several new hostages plucked from hospital staff. Slipping out of the cordon after the mayor of Lamitan, the provincial governor (see my entry "Portrait of a Warlord Part 1: Wahab Akbar")and the AFP brass on the island worked out a mutually profitable deal. One of the nurses was raped* by Khadaffy Janjalani who then informed her that she was now his third wife. The poor woman became pregnant and when Janjalani tired of dragging her increasing girth through the steep mountain trails he released her. She never saw him again but swore she was in love with him in a complicated example of Stockholm Syndrome. For those unfamiliar with that term it refers to a rather common psychological condition experienced by many captives who end up sympathising and even identifying with their captors. Obviously many present at Maricris' press conference assumed that this was yet another sad but predictable case of that mental illness. How much more so when she was very gently asked about mistreatment and she bristled with indignation, informing her inquisitor that "Muslim men never mistreat women."

It is worth noting that there are 2 active warrants lodged against 2 of Pedro Sogradiel's drinking buddies: Mubin Bakwang and Jaidan "Abu Jai" Abdusalam. Both men are from the 113 Base Command's main camp in Sultan Naga Dimaporo, in Lanao del Norte Orovince, just over the provincial border from Zamboanga Sibugay. These are the two men who are believed to have joined Rajak Campo.

*The nurse in question of course denied that her "relationship" with Janjalani had ever been anything but completely consensual. Even if this were true, and multiple witness statements tell otherwise, a sexual relationship between captor and captive is rape simply in and of itself because of the power imbalance.

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