Monday, June 6, 2011

Kidnap for Ransom,Second Quarter of 2011,Part VI:Nico Sebastian

Doesn't the title of this entry sound like a musical group?"Ladies and Gentlemen...Live from Mindanao,Nico Sebastian and the 5 Fishermen!!!"Exit stage left,pan to audience,fade to black and commercial.

On May 19th,2011 sixteen year old Nico Sebastian told his family that he would be heading to Barangay Languyan in the municipality of Mohammad Ajul,Basilan Province.He had just seen his childhood friend,Nadshmir"Francisco"Abubakar and his pal had invited him to play billiards,a popular pastime here in the Southern Philippines.Abubakar had mysteriously disappeared a year before and Sebastian was hoping to hear all about what had happened.Sebastian's family are Kaingin (Slash and Burn) farmers in Tuburan and the teenager rarely had time to himself.Telling him to enjoy himself,it was the last time his parents saw him.

When the young man failed to return home by early evening his family ventured into Lamitan City to file a missing persons' report at the CPO's (City Police Office) Barangay Lumuton sub-station.It was there that they learned that Abubakar had joined the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces,the armed wing of the MILF) 114 Base Command and was serving under sub-Kumander Arasad Jion.Jion serves as the MILF's Provincial Committee Police CO (Commanding Officer).The MILF maintains a parallel governmental structure moderately based upon the GPH (Government of the Philippines) LGU (Local Government Unit,meaning the barangay,municipal and provincial governments) structure.Likewise the MILF also maintains its own police force though only in name with very few exceptions.

Each barangay,municipal and provincial MILF Committee maintains an ISF (Internal Security Force) which serves as this aforementioned de facto police force.In 2004 the new MILF Chairman,al Haj Murad Ebrahim,re-organised the ISF so as to neutralise his newly named Vice Chairman of Military Affairs (MILF,not BIAF) Abdul Aziz Mimbantas who commanded an oppositional MILF/BIAF faction,albeit at 1/4th the strength of Ebrahim's own leading faction.With this re-organisation the ISF was sublimated to the BIAF and out of the hands of Mimbantas.

Though the 114 Base Command maintains a very cohesive structure it is very closely tied to both of Basilan's leading ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) factions,the Jamiri and Indama groups.This is unavoidable for a number of reasons.Basilan is a sparsely populated island with only 7 municipalities.Its 3 Muslim Tribes:

1) Yakan,indigenous to the island and the only group inhabiting the uncharted interior

2) Tausug, an Islamicised Bisayan Tribe now considered indigenous to Jolo Island though they migrated there from Butuan on Mindanao's Northeast Coast

3) Badjao (Bajao/Sea Gypsies),a nomadic seafaring tribe found on the coasts of most every island in the Southern Philippines,Eastern Malaysia and Western Indonesia.Only nominally Islamic as a form of protection from the much more militaristic Tausug and to a lesser degree the Sama (Samal) Tribe.

With most Basilenos,as the people on Basilan are generically labeled,living in those 7 communities there are vbound to be close alliances between the MILF/BIAF and the ASG.Both struggle in the face of a common enemy.The close proximity and shared circumstances have led to a lot more than simply questionable co-operation.The 2 groups often co-ordinate their tactical and strategic operations so as to maximise their advantages as well as avoiding Friendly Fire,etc.

After missing a call placed from Sebastian's cellphone on May 26th,Sebastian's eldest sister,Janet Sebastian Tahil,received a phone call on May 28th from an unlisted cellphone from a man who demanded a ransom of P2M (~US44,000) within 72 hours or her younger brother would be decapitated.It was after this May 28th phone call that Abubakar,who also uses the nicknames"Toto"and"Marvin,"was first considered a key suspect in the Sebastian Kidnapping.

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