The ugly face of kidnapping has surfaced again with the beheading of Jurgen Gustav Kantner, a German, by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) last February 24. It is so disgusting that despite the all-out war waged by the military against the group, they can still play their usual terror game almost at will.
Something wrong in the over-all strategy? We cannot say so; perhaps, the best to say is that it is not paying off yet. But when will this happen; or will it ever happen?
Or simply, the problem of kidnapping is so complex that it cannot be separated, although not part of it, to the resolution of the Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao. Military solutions to peace and order problem in the region has been at play since the grant of Philippine independence in 1946, starting from the Kamlon and Tawantawan rebellions in Sulu and Lanao respectively, but they barely made a scratch in the surface. This led to the creation of the Commission on National Integration (CNI) with integration of Moros into the national body politic as the ultimate aim. But this approach did not click, because the Moros did not want to be integrated. To them, integration is a prelude to assimilation, and henceforth, to Christianisation.
For now, the most that we can do is to sympathize with the family of the victim and offer them condolences. We cannot do more than that. Sulu is the bastion of the ASG, MNLF, Sulu sultanate, and politicians’ private armies. More importantly, it is heavily militarized.
The long range approach of the MILF is to strengthen its presence in the island provinces; and once that objective is achieved, for sure, we can help neutralize kidnapping in the area especially in Sulu. In Central Mindanao where the MILF is strong, kidnapping has been greatly neutralized. Practically for the last six years or so, there has been no instances of kidnapping. Thanks to the effective partnership of government and MILF through their respective Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCHs) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAGs).
The main aspect of the difficulty is that while the MILF, as a revolutionary organization, has the moral obligation to combat kidnapping, as well as drug trafficking and other immoral or criminal acts, but it lacks legal authority, at least what government and other states can afford to concede. This can only happen if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be passed into law and the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) is put into place.
In fairness, the Duterte administration has done everything possible to save the German, but to no avail. The ASG wants nothing but money.
Of course, they have not gotten any money by killing the German. But what they succeeded to send the message that they are determined to do anything if their demand is not met.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte apologized to Germany for the failure of government to save the German victim: “I am very sorry that the hostage, a national of your country, has been beheaded. I sympathize with the family, I commiserate with the German people. But I said, we tried, there’s a massive operation going on and I have just announced to you, they’re beginning to use air assets.”
“We really tried our best. We have been there, the military operation has been going on for some time already and but we have failed and so that has to be admitted,” he added.