Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ces Drilon and company finally released!

By now, everybody must have already gotten the news that ABS-CBN star reporter Ces Orena -Drilon, camera man Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University Professor Octa Dinampo were released by their kidnappers in Sulu.

A deadline was given for a 15-million pesos ransom yesterday noon, with the threat that the hostages will be beheaded if the money was not turned over by noon yesterday. As I listened to the news on the radio yesterday, some stations were doing a sort of countdown, counting the minutes before the 12-noon deadline.

SOmehow, the deadline was extended into the afternoon, perhaps through the persistent negotiations with the kidnapppers. As I was sleeping last night, my wife, who was watching the late night news, woke me up to tell me that the hostages were released already.

What a sigh of relief. In my work as a government official, I have encountered several instances of kidnappings, some high profile such as this recent one, and some which did not even merit a news item. In many of those instances, although I had concern for the hostages, there was no compelling emotion that made me personally concerned.

But in this particular incident, the relief at the news of their release was more personal because I knnow Ces personally, she had interviewed me several times before, and she is also a PMA 61 brat. Our fathers were classmates in the Philippine Military Academy.

So now that they are released, the country can breathe easier, without the prospect of our breakfasts being soured by frontpage news that innocent hostages beheaded for non-payment of ransom.

Some would make an issue about whether or not there was ransom paid. I firmly believe that government should maintain a firm position of upholding the "no ransom policy". Government should not be bullied into giving in to terrorists. Period.

We should never put at fault other people who have genuine concern for the hostages to do do anything for their safety. But that should not happen at the instance or the initiative of government. The government should not be part of any form of concession to terrorists.

Why? Because it remains the government's responsibility to run after and bring to the court of justice those who break the law. Kidnapping is a criminal offense that is punishable under existing laws. Kidnapping with ransom, is considered terrorism, which is a crime under a special law, the Anti-terrorism Act.

If the culprits refuse to be taken before a court of justice, it is the government's responsibility to use necessary force to subdue or even eliminate such threats to society. They should be made to face the full might of the troops of AFP and PNP, if not the prosecutors or the judges of the courts.

Whether there was ransom or not, with the hostages safely released, the government must now pursue the kidnappers relentlessly until they are either captured or eliminated. The government must show that in this society of law and order, there is no room for anyone who will prey on the innocent and earn from the misery that they inflict on their victims and their families.

That's why government should maintain the "no ransom policy". It will give the government a free hand in implementing the law against those who break it.

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