An acclaimed reporter of a national media rushes to have an exclusive on new developments in the Moro rebellion. She and her team got kidnapped. Negotiations for ransom and release ensued. Money paid (nobody wants to confirm this), the team released, everybody heaved a sigh of relief.
This story was the story of ABS-CBN reporter Maan Macapagal. This should have been also just the tale of ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Drilon. The political context today, however, is different. The tale therefore took strange(?) twists.
For one, the ARMM elections for governorship, vice-governorship, and assemblymen are just around the corner. Indanan mayor Alvarez Isnaji is a former MNLF leader, still is identified with the MNLF group of Muslimin Sema, and a candidate for governor. He served as the public negotiator chosen by the kidnappers and accepted by the government and everybody else. The initial rationale then was to agree to a go-between trusted by both sides.
Mayor Isnaji soon found himself in hot water after the release of the news team when he and his son were disowned by the government and simultaneously accused of being the kidnapping mastermind as well as an opportunist who pocketed P3 million of the P5 million supposedly paid by Drilon’s family.
Second, it seems established that a guide used by the news team was the “traitor” who set up the entire kidnapping. However, this person was earlier reported to be a military agent.
Third, the Abu Sayyaf was readily pointed out as the culprit of the kidnapping–by the military, some media reports, and even by some local Sulu officials. It turned out–except for the current PNP list and sketches–that the kidnappers had no known Abu Sayyaf personality with them and mostly consisted of people in their teens and childhood yet.
These elements–involving three major players in the Moro rebellion–in the kidnapping incident lead to some interesting political speculations. What is (are) the motive(s)? How will it impact on the ARMM elections and on the current GOP-MILF talks? At this point, your speculation is as good as mine!
Removing the speculations, one contends with the outcome of the incident. One thing sure is that Mayor Isnaji is now a national figure. In election time, this is priceless, since it immediately elevated him as a very visible candidate against the entrenched ARMM governor Ampatuan. Whether this bodes good or bad for his political fortunes, we still have see. Whether this is an intended or unintended effect (and not taken into account by the planners) is also up in the air.
The kidnapping incident also has become an excuse for stepped-up military operations in Sulu and Basilan–to the point that Comelec Chairman Melo had to point out the possible negative effect on the outcome of the ARMM elections. Coupled with the reports of reluctance and resistance from election syndicates in the region against election automation, electoral violence may be used to disrupt automated elections and revert back to the manual election method–which they have already mastered.
What is certain is that there is more than meets the eye in this kidnapping of Ms. Drilon and her news team.