This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Living Amidst Constant Islamist Threats

"Even at night it's O.K. here, it's safe. It's not safe there [ island of Samal]. That's not Duterte [controlled]."
Irish Ricaforte, 19, college student, Davao City, Philippines

"In Manila, there are all these crimes and problems."
"We don't have that here."
Patrick Seldar, 20, student, Davao City
Video screengrab shows a number of jihadist groups pledging allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group
Abu Sayyaf is one of several groups in the Philippines to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group -- Abu Sayyaf

Davao City, with its 1.6-million population has been a peaceful place of relative prosperity since it came under the influence of its former long-time mayor, and now President-elect of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. The majority religion of the Philippines is Roman Catholic. And there is a restive relationship with the minority Muslim population of the country.

Mr. Duterte, in his time as mayor of Davao City, brought law and order to bear. Strict rules of civil order are enforced. Smoking is generally banned, and bars must close at a specific hour. People under 18 cannot be on the street in the absence of an adult companion between the hours of ten p.m. and five a.m.

From the vantage point of Davao City's waterfront Magsaysay Park, the island of Samal can be seen in the distance. That's where Islamic rebels make their home, among sympathetic Muslims  populating the island located on the coast of Mindanao in the southern Philippines. Loyalty can be assured, since money the rebels make through extortion is shared with villagers.

Violent unrest takes place with firefights between police and military and gangs specializing in kidnap-for-ransom. Through much of Mindanao roadside bomb attacks and firefights take place, but not in Davao City, thanks to the law-and-order agenda that Rodrigo Duterte brought as mayor. His is a tough persona, and he has been accused of crimes reflective of those of the Islamists.

He claims to be prepared to destroy the violent Islamist groups and will do the killing himself, if he has to, to succeed in ridding the Philippines of the scourge of their presence. His targets are killers and drug dealers. The Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, specializing in kidnapping and extortion are his particular target for having brought world attention to their latest atrocities.

The abduction, threats, extortion attempts and finally beheading of two Canadian men whom they had kidnapped last fall along with the Philippine companion of one of the men and the Norwegian operator of a southern Samal island sailing resort. Demands of $8-million each were made for the release of all four who were abducted, and videos circulated of the kidnapped pleading with their governments for intervention.

Filipina Marites Flor, the fiancee of Robert Hall, who had been the second of the two Canadians to be beheaded, was recently released. Earlier, in April, John Ridsdel had been beheaded when the demanded ransom hadn't changed hands. "It's so painful because I saw them moments before they got beheaded. They [Abu Sayyaf jihadigs] were watching it [the beheadings'] and they were happy."

Site Intelligence
Site Intelligence   A second video ended with a new demand for money from Abu Sayyaf or it vowed it would murder Hall, his Filipina girlfriend, Marites Flor and a Norwegian, Kjartan Sekkingstad.

She was herself threatened and beaten just as the others had been. "They told me, 'Robert's head has been chopped off. You're next. They treated us like dogs, like children." All together approximately two dozen people had been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf group in the space of a year, including Indonesians whose tugboat had been raided.

It seems likely now that Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian, may also have been released with the government of Norway surrendering to the demands of the Islamists. The release of Marites Flor appears to have been negotiated by the government of the Philippines which has a firm 'no negotiations with terrorist kidnappers' policy.

In the case of Canada's similar position, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeating ad infinitum that his government does not and will not negotiate to release Canadians, the words of an unidentified kidnap security professional speaks volumes: "Sometimes  you pretend to negotiate before you take them out. Sometimes you pay and then you kill them. Sometimes you pay ... and all  you can do is pray. But you never telegraph your options."

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