DAVAO CITY -- Human rights advocates expressed alarm Friday over the rampant kidnappings in Sulu, citing 50 incidents recorded since February 17 this year.
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (Pahra) coordinator Warina Sushil A. Jukuy, in a media briefing at El Bajada Hotel on Friday, said if they include cases of attempted kidnapping, they might record more than a hundred incidents.
"This is alarming and this is the worst in the history of Sulu. Kidnappings are happening any time of the day," she said.
Jukuy said kidnappings used to be isolated incidents, but now, abductions in Sulu province are very rampant and perpetrators have no particular targets, stressing that even teachers, the poor, children, students, Muslims, and Christians, among others, have fallen victims.
"They are kidnapping people of different background from the heart of Jolo to the 18 other municipalities of Sulu," Jukuy said.
She said the kidnappers have not yet been identified, and all they have now are speculations of what the motives or causes of the kidnapping are.
"There are four speculations on why the rampant kidnappings are happening: initiated by the military, it is done by the opponents of the incumbent leaders, to demonize Islam, and caused by drug addicts," Jukuy said.
She said some of the abductors are kidnapping for ransom, wherein they are asking for as low as P3,000 from the victim's families but there were instances when the victims never returned to their families.
"In Sulu, citizens are no longer secure in their homes... regardless of their status in life. The community is under threat of violence," the Regional Human Rights Commission in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RHRC-Armm) said in a press release.
As the crisis possibly worsens, Jukuy, together with other human rights advocates, called on the National Government on Friday to take immediate action, saying nothing much has been done to solve it.
Jukuy said people on the ground have observed that there is very little action from law enforcers.
“There is no one guarding the civilians and the poor but there are law enforcers guarding the local government unit. It is the prime responsibility of the government to protect its people,” she said.
Bapa Joe Akmad, council of leaders of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), said it is time for President Benigno Aquino III to look into the incidents, as it will translate to a crisis in leadership in his administration if the problem is not resolved.
"This is not only the problem of Sulu but of the Philippines as well. If the international media gets hold of these happenings, it can destroy the image of the country," Jukuy said.
The human right advocates also said the rampant kidnappings will have implications to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, which is expected to be signed by March 27, according to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles. [Read the related story.]
“How can the Bangsamoro government take care of its people if even the National Government cannot solve the problem? … They must also care and not be indifferent and silent about this,” said Jukuy.
With this, the RHRC-Armm called on the Philippine National Police, national and regional governments, and local government units in Sulu to put an end to the kidnappings and impunity; on the regional and provincial leadership too fully enforce the rule of law in Sulu; on the people to be more vigilant for their safety and security; and on the security sector to review the competence of its intelligence infrastructure in order to ensure that public safety is ensured and the criminals brought to justice.
Jukuy said that for a small island like Sulu, there should be checkpoints to ensure the safety of the people.
"The government should address and find a complete solution to end these," said pastor Reu Motecillo, presiding chair of MPC. (Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)