Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/11/09MANILA2391.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA2391
2009-11-16 09:14
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO8774
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #2391/01 3200914
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 160914Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5799
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 002391

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019
TAGS: KJUS MARR PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: KIDNAPPERS RELEASE IRISH PRIEST AFTER ONE MONTH OF CAPTIVITY

REF: A. MANILA 2220 (IRISH PRIEST IS LATEST FOREIGNER
KIDNAPPED IN MINDANAO)
¶B. MANILA 2198 (CHARGE DISCUSSES PEACE PROSPECTS)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, for reasons 1.4 (B) & (D)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Irish priest Michael Sinnott was released by
his kidnappers in the early morning hours of November 12, one
month after his abduction in Pagadian City in the southern
island of Mindanao. While no group has claimed
responsibility for the kidnapping, Philippine prosecutors
have filed charges against as yet unnamed “rogue” members of
the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The mainstream
MILF command denies that any of its members were involved in
the abduction and noted that Philippine officials have
publicly credited an MILF Task Force for assisting in the
peaceful release of Sinnott. A top Philippine official
responsible for the government-MILF peace process told us he
had intervened with the MILF to push for Sinnott’s release,
telling the MILF the peace process was at stake; he believed
the MILF did not release Sinnott immediately upon receiving
him from his captors. While the complete circumstances of
the priest’s release remain unclear, Philippine officials
expressed their doubts that any ransom was paid. END
SUMMARY.

¶2. (C) Michael Sinnott, a 79 year-old Colombian missionary,
was released by his kidnappers in the early morning hours of
November 12. He had been abducted on October 11 (Ref A). At
the time of his kidnapping, Philippine authorities speculated
that a local commander with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) was behind the kidnapping, an allegation which MILF
officials strongly denied. In an October 16 meeting with
MILF leader Murad Ibrahim, the DCM urged the MILF to do all
it could to help secure Father Sinnott’s rapid release (Ref
B). The DCM relayed to Murad the extreme concern of the
Irish Ambassador regarding Father Sinnott’s ill health and
need for heart medication. She stressed that the MILF had a
role to play in helping the situation and preventing
terrorist and kidnap-for-ransom groups from exploiting the
lack of security.

¶3. (U) During a press conference at a Philippine Air Force
Base in Manila soon after his release, Father Sinnott, who is
affectionately known as “Father Mike” by his parishioners,
appeared in good spirits and thanked those who prayed for him
during his ordeal. In fluent Tagalog, Father Sinnott said
that, despite his recent ordeal, his commitment to the
Mindanao people remained strong and expressed his wish to
return to his rectory in Pagadian City. He also said he
believed that he was not kidnapped by the MILF, but rather
“members of a lost command led by a certain ‘Pikay.'” At the
same press conference, senior Philippine military and
government officials said they doubted any ransom was paid
for his release. They also publicly credited an MILF Task
Force for its assistance in the safe release of Father
Sinnott.

¶4. (C) In a November 13 conversation, Department of Foreign
Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, Chairman of the
Philippines, Peace Panel, told the Embassy he had personally
interceded with the MILF on November 10 to secure the release
of Sinnott, and that the priest had been released to him in
the city of Zamboanga. Seguis said he believed the MILF had
secured custody of Sinnott from his kidnappers on November 9
or 10, but had not immediately released him. U/S Seguis said
he had reluctantly become involved in this matter because of
the extreme importance the Philippines government attached to
Sinnott,s case. Seguis told the MILF the peace process was
at stake — it would be impossible to proceed with peace
talks if it appeared the MILF bore responsibility for the
kidnapping. When U/S Seguis spoke to Embassy officials after
Sinnott,s release, he refrained from speculating about the
extent of MILF responsibility for the kidnapping, saying he
hoped to have no further involvement in investigating the
abduction; the peace process should remain separate from such
issues. Seguis also added that he believed the MILF would
never cooperate with law enforcement efforts in targeting the
kidnappers.

¶5. (C) COMMENT: The details of who kidnapped Father Sinnott
and how he was released remain murky. Having filed charges
against “rogue” MILF members, the Philippine government will
have a chance to make its case. The kidnapping and
allegations of MILF involvement come at a sensitive time in
the ongoing peace negotiations. Philippine officials are
expected to travel to Kuala Lumpur for further informal talks
with the MILF on November 16, and both sides have privately
confided to the Ambassador that they are currently expediting
their efforts to conclude a peace agreement before the June

MANILA 00002391 002 OF 002

2010 end of President Arroyo’s term.
KENNEY

   

 

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