Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Kidnapping victims should outsmart their captors

COTABATO CITY, Philippines--Communicating using one's fingernails helped a victim in Central Mindanao's most celebrated kidnapping case in 1981, old court records here reveal.
The victim, a high school senior at that time, is a child of a businessman-philanthropist of Jewish ancestry.

Due to the sensitivity of some information that the victim disclosed in court hearings, names are withheld in this story to help preserve the dignity of the persons involved, dead or alive, and accord them the right to privacy under Philippine Civil Law.

Court records revealed that the victim, blindfolded most of the time in captivity, had written invisible notes using the index finger nail, which said: "(name withheld) was here" on a particular date. The National Bureau of Investigation had later traced the notes with the use of a chemical solution by which the fingernail-printed words surfaced. Such was over two decades away from this age of text messaging and other satellite-aided gadgets.

Philippine National Police Chief Director General Avelino Razon had said that ABS-CBN reporter Ces Drilon did similarly communicate, through text messaging to her family vital information, such as their approximate location at a particular time.
Marked money

The 1981 kidnapping was planned "for the purpose of fund raising," so found the investigation, according to court and police files. But no ransom was paid, the family friends of the victim had said.

But authorities quoted in articles that appeared in the newspapers then said that P300,000 in ransom was actually paid by the family, and operatives had listed down the P100-bills' serial numbers to pursue physical evidence through a "marked money" scheme.

Suspects either of direct participation or conspiracy to the crime had been arrested, and were prosecuted, following the authorities' money trail operations.

Writings on the wall

Old transcripts of court records showed that the victim also consistently identified "principals" in the abduction in court hearings, including a radio broadcaster and a ranking Army official who took turns in sexually molesting the victim.

The government prosecution panel had presented a tape-recorded voice of the suspect and asked the victim with eyes closed to tell the court whose voice it was. During another hearing, the victim was again asked to listen to the oral testimony of the suspect who was then shielded by a curtain. The victim consistently mentioned an identical person, who made sexual advances on the same complainant while being blindfolded in captivity.

In the case of Drilon, the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group has filed charges against Alvarez Isnaji, the town mayor of Indanan where Drilon's group was kidnapped, and his son, Haider. The police said they were also considering filing a criminal case against Jumail Biyaw, the assistant of Prof. Octavio Dinampo, who was with Drilon's group when they were abducted.

Biyaw, now under police custody, had told military officials in a press conference that he went back to Jolo on Dinampo's order, and on his way back, he told the driver of their hired vehicle not to wait for Drilon's group anymore.

In varying dates, the imaginary writing was all over the walls of the houses or underneath the trusses and posts of huts where the victim was held for almost three weeks.

"That case will long serve as a lesson to victims (of kidnapping) as well as government investigative offices and police authorities," said an observer, a retired policeman, who closely followed the case.

Back in school, the victim was able to deliver a scheduled valedictory address at the victim's school and showed the human face of the terrifying experience with courage.

Alliance of friends

Friends of the victim's family were up in arms against the suspects among them, ordinary local Maguindanao Muslim residents "recruited" by the armed group's organizers, most of them now deceased.

Datu Tocao Mastura, who was then newly installed as mayor of his native Sultan Kudarat town near Cotabato City, formed an alliance among local Christian militias and Muslim rebel returnees in a series of offensives on the lair of the suspects, resulting to deaths of a number of them, according to news reports on the incident.

Christians and Muslims among Central Mindanao officials were then very supportive of the investigation and prosecution of the suspects, no matter what, recalled Deputy Speaker Simeon Datumanong, who was then chair of the Central Mindanao Autonomous Government, the forerunner of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The broadcaster, who hailed from Luzon and was in his late 60s at the time of the litigation, had been imprisoned at the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. He was later freed on presidential pardon based on a petition filed by a Muslim official for old age. He had lived a sickly life and soon died.

A lawyer colonel working for the Judge Advocates Group Office in Camp Aguinaldo had won the case for the Army major implicated in the case.

The implicated Army major was killed in 1991 in Pasay City in a reported incident of a shootout with NBI men who were in a pursuit of a drug-bust operation in progress.

Text, GPS

In this day and age of text messaging and global positioning system, potential victims, especially journalists covering exclusive stories, are better protected, said a local reporter.

But to veteran local journalist Avelino Acoymo, there are stories not worth the risk as shown in the case of the "treacherous" abduction of Drilon and company.

The 27-year-old kidnapping case will forever teach the lessons of not only having a "presence of mind" (as Razon described Drilon's courage), but for victims to be able to outsmart their captors. (Nash Maulana, INQ.net)

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