Kidnappings for Ransom – In the Philippines – Part 2


To date my research has identified most kidnapping for ransom (KFR) victims have been upper middle class. More importantly none of them have been extremely wealthy or politically connected. The reason being gangs in the business of KFR believe upper middle class victims reduce the risks and increase the profits while keeping their activities under the media’s radar. Likewise, kidnapping foreigners brings the KFR groups far more attention from authorities.

According to Philippine police Filipino-Chinese businessmen are among the favorite KFR victims. Their families tend not to report the incidents to law enforcement. Instead they quietly pay the ransom demands and get the victim released.

Indian nationals are also considered prime targets because many of them are engaged in small-time informal lending and often carry large amounts of cash.

Chinese, Korean and American nationals, all of whom are believed capable of paying high ransoms, have also been targeted.

KFR generates cash for the criminals. This year, the KFR statistics show that P17 million has been paid, but 41 of the kidnappers were killed and 74 were arrested.

KFRs are not “spur of the moment” crimes, such as pick pocketing, robberies, etc. The KFR is usually preceded by careful planning and gathering of intelligence. Having access to a million pesos (AU$22,000) could be enough for a KFR gang to think of you as a prospect. Your ability to pay quickly (within 24 to 48 hours) and your refusal to contact the police are factors that would encourage the gang to identify you as a possible victim. The gangs usually have an informer whose job is to locate the suitable targets. Chances are that this spotter will monitor your movements and may even apply to work with you, or sadly, may be a family member. If you are a businessman, they may befriend one of your employees and their skill in courting even your most trusted helpers will provide them with the information they need. Questions like what color your credit card is can reveal your financial status to the tipster. Knowing what route you take each morning to your gym or golf game will alert them. When the kidnappers decide to execute their plan, the gang, with the help of their informer, will snatch their victim in a way that would arouse the least attention from the public.

A news release issued by Philippine police on June 23, 2011 stated: An Indian national has been kidnapped in the Philippines by suspected gunmen belonging to outlawed terror group Abu Sayyaf.

Biju Kolara Veetil, 36, was visiting the family of his Filipino wife in the village of Tempok in the province of Sulu, when the armed men barged in the house the day before.

“We are still awaiting reports about the Indian national and who was behind the abduction,” Chief Inspector Amil Baanan, the provincial deputy police chief for operations, was quoted as saying by the Mindanao Examiner, a regional newspaper.

“At least four gunmen took the Indian from the house and dragged him away,” he said, adding that police teams have been sent to track down Biju.

The motive of the abduction is still unknown, but previous kidnappings had been blamed by authorities to Abu Sayyaf militants whose group is tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, the report said.

Biju is the second foreigner to be kidnapped since last month in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

“Marine elements in Sulu are conducting pursuit operation,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, a regional military spokesman, the Mindanao Examiner reported.

A Malaysian national, Mohammad Nasaruddin Bensaidin, was earlier kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants in the village of Kajatian in Indanan town.

Major Roles of the Media
The media coverage of kidnappings is totally dependent on the location of the incident, the violence involved, and the victim’s status in the community. Most kidnappings of local residents get little national coverage, but if the victim is a foreigner or a member of a prominent family, you can be sure that every newspaper and broadcast media will cover the incident. And if the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response team (PACER) is involved, a news blackout is usually retained until the victim is rescued.

In a more recent case the Surigao del Sur town mayor’s kidnapping by NPA rebels highlighted what can go wrong when the media is involved. The NPA rebels have since issued a statement that he Mayor Henry Dano will be tried in the “People’s Revolutionary Court” for crimes committed against the people. This usually results in the demand for “fines” or “compensations”, or the demand to pay delinquent “revolutionary taxes” before release. Plain KFR, but under another name. Refusal to pay usually results in execution.

In a report filed by Queenie Casimiro, ABS CBN Zamboanga, authorities revealed that negotiations for the safe release of two abducted US citizens and a Filipino relative in Zamboanga City had commenced.

Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Western Mindanao Director Felicisimo Khu said they have received information that the abductors of Gerfa Lunsmann, her 14-year-old son Kevin and Lunsmann’s nephew Romnick Jakaria, are asking for an undisclosed amount as ransom.

Khu identified the Alawi Kidnap for Ransom Group, led by Waning Abdusallam of the MILF Special Operations Group (MILF-SOG) based in the Zamboanga Peninsula, as the perpetrators.

“That being the case,” Khu said, “it would be impossible for the victims to be in Basilan.”

Khu said there are indications that the Lunsmanns are being kept somewhere in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The Police General also disclosed they are trying to establish if the third captive, Romnick Jakaria, is the same Jakaria who was involved in past KFR activities in the region. “As of now, he is still considered as a victim,” Khu said.

The Lunsmanns and Jakaria were forcibly taken from their rest house in Tigtabon island in Zamboanga City at dawn of July 12.

Lunsmann is a native of Pangapuyan Island in Zamboanga City, but was adopted and raised in the US by her American adoptive parents. Lunsmann married a German national and has settled in Virginia. She has been visiting her native land of Zamboanga City since 2008…

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