Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has expressed deep concern over the new wave of kidnappings in Mindanao even as he urged newly-confirmed Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento to intensify security in Southern Philippines, particularly in resorts frequented by foreigners.
“Now that Secretary Sarmiento, who is my former colleague in Congress, has been confirmed, he should order the Philippine National Police to intensify security operations in Mindanao especially in resorts which are vulnerable to Abu Sayyaf bandits,” said Gatchalian.
At least 20 heavily armed men kidnapped three foreign nationals and a Filipina from the Ocean View Resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte, Monday night.
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The four victims were identified as Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian and operations manager of the resort; Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and his Filipina girlfriend identified only as Tess.
Gatchalian would like to believe that latest kidnapping incident has nothing to do with the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Congressional approval of which has hit a snag due to revisions in several provisions of the BBL, which are deemed unconstitutional.
The Valenzuela City lawmaker pointed to the Davao del Norte PNP’s earlier statement that the kidnappers could be members of the New People’s Army or a local bandit group called BAMA or Bangsamoro Army, a mix of breakaway members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.
“Suspicions that the kidnappings have something to do with the BBL can be ignited by a simple request by the government for the MILF to help in the rescue of the kidnapped foreign nationals,” Gatchalian pointed out.
Gatchalian said the kidnapping of two Canadians and one Norwegian will have an adverse effect not only on the country’s tourism but more so on the economy as potential foreign investors might decide not to push through with their business due to security concerns.
The Canadian government has already advised Canadians against traveling to the Davao region and nearby areas, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao due to what it said was “serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping.”
In banning travel to other Mindanao provinces such as those in the ARMM and western and central Mindanao, the Canadian government said the “threat of terrorist activities exists throughout the country, including in major cities.”
This is not the first time that an armed group attacked a posh resort in the Philippines. In 2001, the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf tried but failed to abduct tourists from Samal Island’s Pearl Farm. Three employees died when they engaged the raiding Abu Sayyaf men in a firefight.
Also in 2001, Abu Sayyaf bandits seized local and foreign tourists at the posh Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, including US missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham.
The Dos Palmas hostage-taking drama ended June 2002 when government security forces stormed the bandits’ lair in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte. At the time, three remained as hostages — the Burnham couple and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap.
Martin and Ediborah, however, were caught in the crossfire. Gracia survived, but sustained a gunshot wound in her leg. (R. Burgos)