A second Canadian hostage was beheaded by Philippine Islamist group Abu Sayyaf before President-elect Rodrigo Duterte could be sworn into office and deal with the matter personally. Abu Sayyaf announced on Monday, June 13, that it had beheaded Canadian mining consultant Robert Hall as the deadline for the payment of a 600 million pesos (approximately $129 million) ransom lapsed.
Duterte assumes the chief executive mantle the second outgoing President Benigno Aquino III steps down on June 30. When Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau called Duterte on May 24 to congratulate him on his May 9 election victory, the Philippines’ president-elect apologized about John Ridsdel, the first Canadian hostage executed by Abu Sayyaf, which took place on April 25.
“Mr. Prime Minister, please accept my apologies for the incident. We will try our very best and see to it that nothing of this sort will happen again, and you can rest assured that when the time comes, we will be able to apprehend the criminals and exact justice.”
According to Inquirer, Duterte refrained from commenting on the beheading of the second Canadian hostage, but incoming presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo addressed the matter with reporters at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City where Duterte is the sitting mayor. Panelo said that Abu Sayyaf concerns should be directed at the present administration while Duterte is not yet president.
Hours after the Abu Sayyaf announcement on Monday that they had executed second Canadian hostage Hall, a severed Caucasian head was found in Jolo, Sulu. The recovered head believed to be part of Hall’s remains was sent to Manila for D.N.A. testing.
When reporters asked about a comprehensive plan by Duterte to solve the Abu Sayyaf problem in light of the second Canadian hostage killing, Panelo said this.
“President-elect Duterte will not tolerate or condone any illegality in this country. He will do everything in his power to stop all these… That’s his commitment, to stop all this criminality.”
Pundits regard the keyword “stop” of a special significance. An oft-repeated pronouncement by the iconic Davao City mayor in the past has been when he says “stop,” criminals stop, or he stops them. And he has promised to stop criminality in the Philippines in three to six months, targeting kidnappers, drug dealers, and corrupt elements in government service. Having killed their second Canadian hostage, the kidnappers should be on notice.
Armed men seized Hall, Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Maritess Flor from a marina in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte province on September 2, 2015, and handed them in what appeared to be a business deal to the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The Islamic band beheaded Ridsdel for failing to get 300 million pesos in ransom. Hall, the second Canadian hostage unable to meet ransom demands, followed less than three months later.
According to Toronto Star, the status of two remaining hostages, Sekkingstad and Flor, is unknown. Police authorities around the southern city of Jolo said patrols have been dispatched but no evidence has turned up. Efforts by the Philippine military to locate the kidnap-for-ransom victims before the execution of the first and then the second Canadian hostage also failed.
At a press conference reported by Vice News Monday morning, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau defended his policy not to pay ransom for the first and then the second Canadian hostage. Arguing that Canada’s maple leaf symbol worn with pride abroad, should not be turned into a target, he said this about Hall.
“Canada holds the terrorist group who took him hostage fully responsible for this cold-blooded and senseless murder. With the tragic loss of two Canadians, I want to reiterate that terrorist hostage-takings only fuel more violence and instability. Canada will not give in to their fear mongering tactics and despicable attitude toward the suffering of others.”
Abu Sayyaf emerged in the early 1990s as a by-product of a separatist movement by minority Muslims in predominantly Catholic Philippines. Since then, the group has become an openly kidnap-for-ransom criminal organization targeting mostly Western tourists and missionaries. Second Canadian hostage, Hall, is the latest proof of the group’s penchant for murdering innocent civilians.
According to Christian Today, American missionary Gracia Burnham and her husband Martin (who died in the crossfire of a military rescue) were Abu Sayyaf captives for about a year starting in 2001. In her book In the Presence of My Enemies, Gracia Burnham suspected collusion with someone in the Philippine military the second she heard one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders call a woman named Ma’am Blanco in the nearby city of Zamboanga on a satellite phone, requesting specific kinds of weapons and ammunition. She asked the gang leader whom he was ordering from, and he said “the army,” that he was paying more than it should cost, that somebody was making a lot of money, but at least it got his group what was needed. Currently aware of the Canadian hostage tragedy, Burnham’s old suspicions have been revived.
Burnham later found that the military wasn’t just providing weaponry because the gang’s food supply was plentiful for “a most unusual reason.” It appeared a military insider was not only arming the enemy but feeding them as well. If such corruption is a factor in the deaths of the first and then the second Canadian hostage, the guilty insider should beware of Duterte’s wrath.
[Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images]