The January 15 kidnapping of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notte is truly deplorable. However, the bigger question is not why the Abu Sayyaf did it but how.
How could the Abu Sayyaf survive the continuous joint operations of the AFP and the elite troops of the most powerful armed forces in the world, the US Armed Forces? How could it continue to find replacements for its leaders who have been killed one after another? How could it continue recruiting fighters when supposedly they have been constantly on the run? How could it still undertake major armed operations when it is supposedly headless and decimated, on the run and lacking in funds?
BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
The January 15 kidnapping of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Swiss Andreas Notte is truly deplorable. The ICRC is an international humanitarian organization that ensures that the lives and dignity of civilians and other non-combatants in areas of armed conflict are respected. It is accorded protection by armed groups all over the world because of the nature of its work.
Its work involves:
• Trying to ensure that civilians who are not taking part in hostilities are spared and protected
• Visiting prisoners of war and security detainees
• Transmitting messages to and reunite family members separated by armed conflict
• Helping find missing persons
• Offering or facilitating access to basic health care services
• Providing urgently needed food, safe drinking water, sanitation and shelter
• Promoting respect for international humanitarian law
• Monitoring compliance with and contribute to the further development of international humanitarian law
• Helping reduce the impact of mines and explosive remnants of war on people
• Supporting National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to prepare for and respond to armed conflict and other situations of violence
Because of its humanitarian work, the act of kidnapping its workers for ransom invites condemnation locally and internationally. It does not help the cause of the Bangsamoro people for the recognition of their rights as a people. Rather it seems to justify the all-out war in Mindanao being conducted by the Arroyo government against the Bangsamoro people, and the “war on terror” being done by the US all over the world. It serves the interests of those who want to use the Bangsamoro people as scapegoats for its militarist designs more than the Bangsamoro people themselves.
However, the bigger question is not why the Abu Sayyaf did it but how.
Suspicions are rife that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) created or at least encouraged the formation of the Abu Sayyaf. The Abu Sayyaf’s first leader was Abdurajak Janjalani who reportedly fought in the International Islamist brigade in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. The US was known to have aided the Taliban resistance against the Soviet occupation and the Central Intelligence Agency was said to have supported the recruitment of radical Muslims from different countries, including the Philippines. Abdurajak Janjalani was one of those recruits. He reportedly formed the Abu Sayyaf upon returning to the country. Khadaffy Janjalani, Abdurajak’s younger brother, took over the leadership of the Abu Sayyaf when the latter was killed on December 19, 1998.
Suspicions regarding the collusion of the AFP and Abu Sayyaf became stronger when the latter escaped a tight military dragnet in Lamitan in June 2001. Fr. Loi Nacorda, a Catholic priest in Basilan who was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 1994, revealed his suspicions regarding the AFP-Abu Sayyaf collusion after the Lamitan siege and escape. Fr. Nacorda said that while he was in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf, they passed near military camps, a mere 50 to 100 meters away, and that he overheard Abu Sayyaf commanders discussing arms shipments from government sources.