MANILA: A hard-hitting article in The Manila Times has charged that Malaysians are funding the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group by raising ransom money for the release of kidnapped Malaysians.
It also excoriated the Philippine Government over the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and for allowing Malaysian agents to “trample” on Philippine sovereignty.
The opinion piece written by Rigoberto D Tiglo raised the question as to whether the Malaysian Government thought Filipinos were stupid.
Tiglo said the Philippines had become the only country in Asia where a known terrorist group received huge ransom money by kidnapping foreigners.
With funds available the Abu Sayyaf will find it easier to recruit additional fighters, acquire more powerful weapons, and bribe local officials to provide sanctuary for their future hostages.
The writer asked why “our Government hasn’t even protested the Malaysians’ payment of the ransom undertaken through its intelligence service, operating in our territory.”
“That is so reflective of the stupid, incompetent Government that we have. Shouldn’t it undertake an intensive investigation into how the Malaysians could operate so freely in the country, violating our anti-ransom policies and consequently boosting the strength of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf with more funds?
“Shouldn’t the Government find out which local channels were used by the Malaysians to make the ransom payment? Malaysia is mocking our sovereignty by operating in our territory to pay ransom to terrorists plaguing our land, and (President Benigno) Aquino doesn’t seem to mind it. Or has this Government become close buddies with the Malaysians, who had promised Aquino they would handle the MILF to agree to a peace pact?
“What kind of a country have we become that even our neighbours trample on our sovereignty?”
The writer said Malaysians were effectively funding the Abu Sayyaf by paying RM12 million to the terrorist group for the release on June 8 of four Sarawakians kidnapped off Sabah on April 1, and hidden in Sulu.
It said the payments were acknowledged by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and an uncle of one of the kidnap victims, Lau Cheng Kiong, who had given details as to how the money had been paid.
Saying he suspected the money was raised by the Malaysian Government itself, and not by contributions made through the internet as claimed by Lau, the writer added:
“The Malaysian Government, though, thinks Filipinos are fools. Its deputy prime minister claimed: “I can confirm that the RM12 million that was handed over to the Special Branch was given as a form of contribution to certain organisations in the Philippines. It was channelled not as ransom, but to a body in the Philippines, which assists in an Islamic struggle. The body has no links to terrorists or criminals
The writer pointed out that the Abu Sayaff had recently beheaded two Canadians after the hostages’ Government and families failed to pay the ransom demanded by the militant group.
“The terrorists, however, freed the four Malaysians., with the Malaysian Government confirming that RM 12 million was “sent over” for their release. Yet, the deputy prime minister claims it wasn’t ransom, and that it was given not even to the kidnappers but to “a body in the Philippines, which assists in an Islamic struggle.”
Does he think we, Filipinos, are so stupid?”
The writer said the controversy had made the Philippines look like a place where terrorist kidnappers could operate freely to get huge ransoms, helped by local officials and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines who collaborated with the Abu Sayyaf for a share of the ransom money.
He said an exclusive report in The Manila Times had shown the Abu Sayyaf group only received about RM8.8 million of the money raised, “with the rest going to the pockets of Malaysian and Philippine government officials”.
A source in the military was quoted as telling the writer: “They claimed it was a legitimate service fee.”
The writer went on to relate how the kidnappers would abduct someone and then pass them on from clan to clan in Sulu to be hidden to escape the eyes of the authorities until the ransom was paid.
He added that in Basilan and Sulu kidnapping was treated as “a cottage industry”.