Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kidnap for Ransom for the Fourth Quarter of 2012, Part XII: Australian Warren Richard Rodwell

Just one day after the powers that be wasted more money that they don't have with the creation of yet another KFR (Kidnap for Ransom) Task Force, JTF Zambasa, yet another KFR took place. Not only was it within that new Task Force's AOR, or, Area of Responsibility, it involved an Australian expatriate. 53 year old Warren "Wocca" Richard Rodwell was snatch and grabbed out of his "sala," or livingroom, by seven guerillas from the BIAF 113 Base Command who kicked in the front door of his home in Ipil, the capital of Zamboanga Sibugay Province (the "BIAF" being the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the 113 Base Command being the BIAF formation with Operational Control over the entire Zamboanga Peninsula except for parts of Zamboanga Peninsular).

Mr.Rodwell has led a colourful life to say the least. A native of Homebush, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, he and his wife Mary Catherine were raising their three young adolescent children, living in New South Wales, when the marriage went south in 1999. Mary Catherine, tired of Warren's physical and emotional abuse filed for divorce and won custody of the children. Quickly getting the marriage dissolved, she resumed her maiden name of Migro, while Warren figured out his next move as he moved back to Sydney, to stay at his mother's home.

Although he told folks he was a "Business Manager," thus offering the idea that he was a Financial Manager, Warren had merely worked his way up to the Assistant Manager position at a local fast food outlet before being fired when his marriage problems got the best of him. Rudderless, he applied online to a long list of English Language Schools in China before landing a job offer in that country's southwestern province of Yunnan. Going abroad in 2002 Warren spent the next 18 months at the school before wrangling a better position at the Yunnan University of Finance and Economics. The following year, 2005, he left for greener pastures at the University of Electronic Science and Technology, also in Yunnan. Remaining at that position until 2008, Warren then took an English teaching position at Jinangnan University, located in the city of Wuxi, in Jinangnan Province . By late 2009 Warren had had his fill of China and while shoring up his next position there, he asked his next employer for an unpaid sabbatical, promising to return in 2010 for the start of his one year contract.

Fufilling a long unfufiled sense of adventure Warren took a train ride to China's eastern gateway, the city of Shanghai and there departed on a trip that would take him to Africa and South America before bringing back to Australia where he hoped to witness the birth of his firsrt grandchild. Things weren't as Warren might have liked though. The trip was wonderful until arriving home in Australia. His three children, now being adults and not having heard hide nor hair of him in over a decade, they resented his appearance at such a time, as if were selfishly dampening their excitement. As for his ex-wife Catherine Mary, now using her maiden name, Migo, she was now fully independent. After their divorce Mary had returned to school, gained her degree, and was now a long time civil servant working with the Department for Children Protection. Whatever expectations Warren might have had for a reunion, all hope was gone. His family had moved on. After regaining his composure Warren decided on a trip to Fiji and Vanatu for a month and then to Sydney for a quick visit home with his parents before flying to Singapore, to make his way back to Shanghai overland. Travelling through Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam he nearly filled his passport before flying from Hanoi to Shanghai. By March of 2010 Warren was at Inner Mongolia Medical College to fufill his contract to teach English.

It was while in Inner Mongolia that Warren began cruising internet dating sites. Now 51, he felt he wanted to find someone with which to spend the rest of his life. In January of 2011 Warren met a 26 year old single mother from the municipality of Naga, in Zamboanga Sibugay Province. Mariflor "Grace" Gulang had given birth to two children while still a teenager, before her boyfriend abandoned her to find work overseas. After making it to Manila he never contacted the young mother again. Now in her mid-20s, raising two fatherless children in extreme poverty, she took a cue from neighbours and friends and tried internet dating. It wasn't long before she ended up meeting Warren. Describing himself as a "retired military man," without disclosing that like many Australians he had served a stint in the military three decades before. Boosting his appeal by pointing her to articles authored by himself, all of which- saying the same thing- discussed Warren in the third person and described him as a "Globe trotting adventurer." Between the websites and the 20 year old photo he used on the dating site, Warren appeared to be the man of Mariflor's dreams. Quickly the two became enamoured with one another and before long, they made plans to meet. His contract ending March 31st, 2011, Warren bought a one way plane ticket to Manila for April 29th, and excitedly left China.

Arriving in Zamboanga City on May 1st, he met Mariflor and the two quickly planned their future, marrying on June 1st, 2011. While renting a home in Ipil, the town's acting mayor became aware of Warren and had a police officer from the Municipal Police Office, or, MPO, "invite" Warren to attend a "pulong pulong" (forum/seminar) at the town hall. Gathered with other expats who had recently arrived in the Ipil area, Warren was warned that he should think about contracting the services of a private security firm. Although Ipil had been free from the KFR and insurgency-related mayhem affecting most of the Zamboanga Peninsula, it hadn't always been so and could easily change again. Indeed, in 1995 Ipil had been captured and occupied by the Abu Sayyaf for four hours during which more than fifty civilians were murdered in cold blood, more than a dozen women eaped, and dozens more civilians kidnapped and used as Human Shields on the Abu Sayyaf's withdrawal out of town. Security is definitely something to consider though, in truth, it won't prevent most things. Warren later told Mariflor that he felt that the acting mayor had been trying to hustle him, as if to "sell" him the services of a friend's company. The Acting Mayor himself recalled that after warning Warren, the indignant Australian, with all if four weeks experience in Mindanao, had stated point blank that IF anyone bothered him, he would be well equipped to handle them having already purchased a 9MM pistol in Mariflor's name. Besides, he was a "military veteran."

Shortly after that, Warren and Mariflor bought a lot in Greenmeadows subdivision, located in Ipil's Barangay Upper Pangi. The tract, Lot #21, Block #4 was soon humming with work as local contractors began constructing a palatial home for the couple (there aren't streets as such in most municipalities on Mindanao and so homes in subdivisions are referred to by "Lot" and "Block" numbers only). Wanting his wife happy, Warren arranged for Mariflor and her family to open a small shoppe in Ipil's business district. Ironically, the store sat right around the corner from another business owned by the wife of a Scots expat, Keith Morrison. In fact, the two men had sat together in that forum and giggled together as they were warned of the dangers on the island. Indeed, Luisita Galvez Morrison, Keith's wife, would soon be kidnapped from THAT business on September 4th, 2011, a case I covered in a "Kidnap for Ransom for the Third Quarter of 2011" entry (as I did her being shot as her captors were engaged in a firefight with the AFP, or Armed Forces of the Philippines).

After the Morrison KFR, many expats in the area (not there are many expats on all of Mindanao) began hastily safeguarding themselves and their home. Not Warren, he slept soundly with his loaded 9MM under his pillow. In fact, it was that pistol under the pillow that caused a huge, long running argument between Warren and Mariflor. The arguments ceased for awhile as the newlyweds moved into their newly built home in Greenmeadows. But, once again, the pistol came between them. With two very young children Mariflor didn't feel very safe with a loaded gun under the pillow next to her and within reach of her children. What if one of her children got curious?

By early November Warren had begun falling back into old habits, using his hands on his wife. Not willing to suffer the life of an abused wife Mariflor took her two children and left Warren on November 25th. Despite repeated attempts, she refused to even answer his cellphone calls. Warren busied himself finishing up on the house. In fact, on Monday, December 5th, 2011, Warren had just paid a painting crew who had finished painting the interior. Walking into the kitchen he grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat down for yet another quiet night, alone, watching the television. Hearing a loud knock at the door he might have thought it was the painters having forgot something, maybe he even imagined that it was Mariflor seeking a reconciliation. Now a bit drunk, he tried to ignore the knocking, only to have the door fly off the hinges as seven guerillas from the BIAF 113 Base Command rushed towards him. Being quite tall and portly Warren didn't cower easily, despite the M16s and 45 caliber pistols the seven gunmen were all a full head shorter than Warren, and as most people know, alcohol makes a man brave (and very stupid). The leader, wielding a 45 shouted in heavily accented English for Warren to stop resisting. As shocked neighbours listened they heard Warren screaming and cursing at the man, and then BOOM, a single gunshot.

when the gunmen had tried to force Warren into handcuffs he began trying to fight the seven men physically. The leader simply raised his 45 caliber pistol and shot Warren in his toes, making the man scream so loud that neighbours two streets away became aware that "the foreigner" was at it once again- only this time it wasn't Mariflor on the receiving end. Dragging the barefoot and bleeding Warren out to an SUV all seven gunmen climbed in and they drove the less than 3 kilometers to the mangrove where their motorbanca sat (Filipino speak for a motorised wooden skiff). Away Warren "Wocca" Richard Rodwell went into the netherworld of captivity, a guest of the 113 Base Command.

Of course the authorities mindlessly blame Abu Sayyaf despite the fact that the group has neither the ability nor gumption to undertake a KFR on Mainland Mindanao- and hasn't even tried to do so in six years. After the huge Flash Bang Operation in the municipality of Payao, in that same province of Zamboanga Sibugay- against the 113 Base Command's sub-Kumander Waning Abdusalam and his main camp- a costly and lengthly military campaign that failed to capture Abdusalam nor a single one of his men, the AFP is never going to point the finger at the real culprit and thereby draw attention to the Payao boondoggle. Ironically, as I noted in my opening paragraph, just the day before Mr.Rodwell's KFR took place, the AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) created their joint anti-KFR Task Force, JTF-Zambasa. In fact, it was only announced to the public six hours before this highest of high profile KFRs took place ("high profile" because of course, a foreigner is worth a dozen Filipino lives).

The truth of the matter is that this is NOT a new Task Force. In the late-1990s TF Zambasa attempted to deal with the very same issue. In recreating a useless Task Force, the AFP and PNP are trying to fool Filipinos by throwing the word "Joint" in front of it, as if that makes it entirely new and innovative, but more importantly, fooling them into thinking that their Government is on top of the issue and taking a pro-active stance.

The Task Force, or, TF, will be jointly led by Senior Superintendent Felicisimo Khu, Director of DIPO-W, or, Directorate of Integrated Police Operations for Western Mindanao, on the PNP side of the equation. For the AFP, Brigadier General Gerardo T.Layug, the number two man at WESMINCOM (Western Mindanao Command), one of two AFP Regional Commands on Mindanao. The TF is directly subordinate to the Headquarters of each force, specifically, Camp Crame for the PNP, and Camp Aguinaldo for the AFP. There the Chiefs of Operation will deal directly with their respective TF head, for the AFP, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Brigadier General Roberto Almadin (due for another star), and in the PNP- and this is VERY interesting- Chief of Operations, Acting Director Leocadio Santiago Jr. This is the man who, as the Director of NCRPRO (Police Regional Office for the National Capital Region, i.e. "Manila-Rizal") "handeled" the Hong Kong Tourist Tragedy in which, eight tourist from Hong Kong, on a tourbus, were hijacked by a suspended high ranking member of NCRPRO in August of 2010. In "rescuing" the tourists from the clutches of this M16 toting madman, Santiago's officers managed to kill eight of the tourists. The debacle caused an international incident as Hong Kong forbade travel to the Philippines and threatened to forbid Filipino OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers, a euphanism for indentured servants whose remittances home drive the Philippine Economy).

With a mere seven weeks in office President Aquino was far outside his element and leaned on the PNP to salvage the situation. Then Director General Raul Bacalzo had Santiago relieved TWO MONTHS LATER, and replaced with Nicanor Bartolome in a lateral transfer (mind you, if these seem like useless factoids please bear with me, it all serves a point). Santiago himself was placed on Floater Status, until March 4th, 2011. At that point he began serving a 10 Day Suspension for the incident. On March 15th, one day after his suspension ended, he was not only re-instated, but he was given his present position, a major promotion! Santiago himself defended the move by claiming it wasn't a Command Position because he was "under" the PNP Director General but anyone at all familiar with any military or law enforcement aparattus knows that Chiefs of Operations run the enture show- and in any event, if he wasn't in Command then, he now Commands our aforementioned JTF-Zambasa.

The idea behind this latest waste of time, energy, and Pesos is that groups kidnapping on the Zamboanga Peninsula have an inherent advantage over those Governmental agencies trying to interdict them because of provincial and regional borders which are used to delineate AFP and PNP AORs (Areas of Responsibility, as in Areas of Operation). For example, Zamboanga City is both a provincial AND regional capital, and regionally covers Isabela City. Isabela City, despite being part of Zamboanga City's Region 9, is the capital of Basilan Province. The rest of the province is attached to another region, the non-contigious behemoth known as the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao). So, if someone kidnaps a person in Isabela City and simply takes them over the city border, they have created a logistical and operational nightmare. Wanting to overcome these jurisdictional issues? That's great, far be it from me to frown on inter-agency co-operation...BUT...THIS IS exactly why DIPO was created (AFP already has supra-regional command aparattuses). So now, you take the Director of Dipo (Felicisimo Khu) and throw even more responsibilities on his back when he has miserably failed to put even a slight dent into the KFR Industry in his present dedicated role?

Indeed, this is the third JTF fashioned in this manner. A week earlier they created JTF-Panguil, covering Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte Provinces, and of course the first one, from the summer, TF Kutawato in Central Mindanao- specifically the Cotabato City-Liguasan Marsh KFR nexus. Indeed, these two other TFs are ALSO within DIPO-W's AOR, so now they make a third and to top it off, put the head of DIPO-W in the driver's seat, and they wonder why nothing ever changes.

Ideally, if you are dealing with this particular dynamic, the Zamboanga Peninsula-Basilan Island KFR nexus, you would have a a senior AFP officer in a dedicated slot, in other words, without concurrent reponsibilities. He would be positioned in Zamboanga City, outside of Camp Navarro for less distraction. His PNP counterpart, also a senior officer (Senior Inspector or above), placed on Basilan, thereby truly giving coverage to the geographical scope. Placing two technocrats in non-dedicated roles, BOTH in Zamboanga City, what do they imagine they will be able to do?

On one comforting note, the Philippine Government isn't the only useless national government. Just days before Mr.Rodwell's KFR his home nation of Australia initiated governmental inquiries into the government's previous mis-handling of kidnappings of Australian citizens abroad. Upon hearing of Rodwekl's KFR the Australian Prime Minister immediately formed an inane task force and employed professional negotiators. Seeing as how most have no idea what takes place on the island (Pros almost always work for insurance companies and most policies deal with heavy conflict areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Western Africa, and for whatever reason, Colombia and the rest of Latin America, but not our fair isle). This is why the Philippine Government has implemented its News Blackout...censorship...cough.


  1. Filipina marriage scams occur when a woman lures an unsuspecting Western man into her dangerous web with promises of love and devotion. The man who is usually from the United States, United Kingdom, or Australia falls in love with the person the Filipino woman is pretending to be and marries her.

    Once the deceptive woman gets what she wants out of the marriage, she discards her husband. Sometimes, the Filipina will trash the husband's reputation in the process, and if there are children involved the situation becomes even more frightening.

    The one's who have gained out of this kidnapping crime are the terrorists and the local Filipino wife, who tried to trash the husband's reputation right from the get go. Strange that she kept using her maiden name after marriage. Why didn't she sell his house and the water filling station as she claimed, (but was quickly exposed to be untrue) to raise ransom money?

    After release, MIraflor (Grace) Gutang said, "When I go there (to the hospital) I want to see him, I want to taking care of him, I want him to meet me but the guards said Warren don't want to see me in person,'' she said. Mr Rodwell was lucky to get out of this ordeal. Perhaps. He preferred to stay alive without her in the same country as him.;topicseen#new


    WARREN RODWELL Short Story by Danny Jovica (Expats Association)

    Reclining on the couch, relaxing after a long day and my mobile
    phone unexpectedly rang. I checked the time, and saw it was 10pm and noted the
    incoming call was from an unknown number. I wondered who could be calling me
    this hour.

    I answered and to my astonishment I found myself talking to none
    other than Warren Rodwell (long time kidnap victim of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist
    group in the Philippines). I had previously contacted Mister Rodwell inviting
    him to join Expats Association in an honorary administrative capacity. This particular evening, he confirmed that he had received my latest message advising that Expat Association had just been granted charity status in Australia, and that I
    wanted to talk to him by phone.

    As founder of Expats Association, I found myself no longer able to
    be tired, Warren Rodwell had my captivated attention as the next four hours
    unfolded with the telling of his detailed kidnapping and his experiences he had
    as a hostage. The instant impression I got was Warren is an intelligent,
    articulate and worldly man.

    On the 5th of December 2011, Warren’s sister received a
    call - not from Warren, but from the Australian Embassy in Manila, calling to
    inform her that her brother had been kidnapped and taken hostage by the Abu
    Sayyaf terrorist group. They were making demands of USD$2 Million for his
    release or he would be beheaded!

    Our discussion turned to the lead up toward these events and it
    became apparent that the cause of Warren's problems started with ....

  3. The above blog gives some "fascinating" first-hand insights about a then "missing" person. Think, I'd better refer to the non-fiction biography written by Bob East PhD.

    Dr East is an Australian independent researcher and author, and holds a PhD in International Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. His research specialises in insurgency and associated criminality in the southern Philippines.

    His latest book ... "472 Days Captive of the Abu Sayyaf - The Survival of Australian Warren Rodwell" .... Cambridge Scholars Publishing, United Kingdom ... follows on from his 2013 publication "Terror Truncated: The decline of the Abu Sayyaf Group from the crucial year 2002".

  4. So the writer of this blog felt that an honest voice might help draw attention to the many ills plagueing a gorgeous island filled with beautiful people, both of which are trapped in a cesspool of corruption and rampant violence. What a load of utter crap. The facts don't tie in at all logically, names are mixed and confused, sounding like someone with attention deficit disorder. You wouldn't be the same American expert that apologised profusely top Senor Rodwell just before Christmas when your unjustified and heavily biased comments were ripped to shred by various readers? The same spook that retired from blogging altogether to save some face and avoid being sued. For the love of Allah or whatever you want to call yourself, read the freaking book. If you can't afford a hardcover version, get a Kindle for about $5. That's if you can budget that into your measly military pension. Get a life, stooge. Look for someone else who you think is dead or cannot speak up for himself. Rodwell has gone on to do candid radio and television interviews as well as public speaking gigs. He is not in it for the money when he tells the world what a bunch of halfwits his captors were and are. He was shot, starved and treated in a way that probably befits the likes of goons that stab others in the back even when they don't them. Do humanity a favour and die slowly, buddy.