'Express kidnappings' now target low-income earners

By RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Jun 09 2015 04:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 10 2015 12:41 AM

Kidnappers demand P10K to P20K from families

ZAMBOANGA - A non-government organization has expressed alarm over the spate of kidnapping incidents in Sulu province and Zamboanga peninsula, which now targets even low-income earners.

Ershad Tawasil, the para-legal officer of Mindanao Human Rights Action Center, said the series of kidnapping incidents in Sulu have targeted not only businessmen and people belonging to the middle class, but also minimum-wage earners including government employees.

Tawasil said the groups behind the kidnappings have resorted to this activity as their source of daily income to feed their families.

The groups now target low-income earners, which they consider easy targets.

The groups demand around P10,000 to P20,000 from their captives' families in exchange for the freedom of the victims.

Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of Joint Task Force ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi), called this activity of the lawless groups in Sulu as "express kidnapping," citing the lower ransom demanded by the suspects.

Yoma said these lawless groups prefer not to hold their captives for a long period of time.

The official said these express kidnappers might be linked to the Abu Sayyaf groups operating in the jungles of Sulu, but they operate independently in the populated towns of the province, looking for possible targets.

Yoma said they have been exerting efforts to arrest these kidnap-for-ransom groups in Sulu, especially the lookouts or spotters who usually monitor the everyday activities of possible victims.

Military operations in the province are focused on rescuing the remaining kidnap victims in the hands of Abu Sayyaf members, which include Naga (Zamboanga Sibugay) Mayor Gemma Adana, and the two Philippine Coast Guard personnel and a barangay chairman who were snatched on an island barangay of Zamboanga del Norte.

On Saturday, a businesswoman foiled an attempt of Abu Sayyaf members to kidnap her in Jolo town, after she was able to run and seek the help of policemen.

Two Abu Sayyaf bandits were arrested following a hot pursuit operation in Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul town.

Tawasil said, if the spate of kidnapping incidents does not stop, this will have a domino effect on the local economy of Sulu province and the livelihood of the residents as well.

Tawasil said security in Sulu must be tightened and police visibility should be maintained.

Close coordination among the local government units in BaSulTa area including Zamboanga peninsula must be enforced to strengthen the maritime security in coastal areas.