Sep 172014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/06/08MANILA1399.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MANILA1399
2008-06-11 08:57
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO6287
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1399/01 1630857
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 110857Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0976
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MANILA 001399

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/11/2018
TAGS: PTER MOPS PINS RP
SUBJECT: TOP BROADCAST JOURNALIST ABDUCTED IN MINDANAO

REF: A. MANILA 1352 (BASILAN UNREST MIRRORS UNSETTLED
PEACE PROCESS)
¶B. MANILA 1030 (MILITARY CONDUCTS STRIKE AGAINST
TERRORIST CAMP)
¶C. 2007 MANILA 3800 (STANDOFF WITH COUP PLOTTERS
ENDS PEACEFULLY)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: A popular Philippine television journalist
was reportedly kidnapped by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group
(ASG) on June 8, in an isolated area of Jolo Island, southern
Philippines, while en route to a putative interview with ASG
leader Radulan Sahiron. President Arroyo immediately ordered
the Philippine National Police (PNP) “to investigate, run
after the perpetrators, and bring back the victims alive and
well” and instructed the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) to cooperate with the PNP and “exhaust all measures” to
locate Drilon and her crew. In conjunction with an uptick in
armed confrontations between Muslim insurgent groups and
Philippine Marines, the May 29 bombing in Zamboanga that
apparently targeted Philippine Marines at Edwin Andrews Air
Base, a peace process that has been stalled since December,
and the pullout of the Malaysian contingent from the
International Monitoring Team, Drilon’s abduction constitutes
part of a disturbing pattern of increased activity by various
actors in Mindanao. END SUMMARY

——————————————
JOURNALIST, THREE OTHERS KIDNAPPED IN SULU
——————————————

¶2. (U) Popular ABS-CBN television reporter Ces Drilon and
two news crew members were abducted by armed men under Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader Albader Parad on June 8 in an
isolated area on Jolo Island, Sulu Province, in southern
Mindanao. They were reportedly en route to what they
believed was a special interview with wanted ASG leader
Radulan Sahiron, without coordinating with the military,
police, and local government. The crew’s guide, peace
advocate and Mindanao State University Professor Octavio
Dinampo, was also taken, while a fifth hostage, the driver,
was released the following day. The kidnappers have
reportedly demanded a ransom of 25 million pesos
(approximately $560,000 USD) for the release of the hostages.
While Philippine media giant ABS-CBN issued a statement
indicating that it would not pay the ransom, news chief Maria
Ressa, who was in touch with Drilon after she was reported
missing, assured the public ABS-CBN had “people on the ground
talking.”

————————–
POPULAR TELEVISION PERSONA
————————–

¶3. (U) Cecilia Victoria “Ces” Drilon, a wellknown,
award-winning broadcast journalist, is a senior correspondent
for media giant ABS-CBN Network, the largest television and
radio network in the Philippines. Drilon is virtually a
household name, having covered most of the major news stories
in the Philippines in the last two decades, including the
1989 coup attempt against former President Corazon Aquino,
the 1990 earthquake in Baguio, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo
in 1991, and the Magdalo rebels’ takeover of the Manila
Peninsula hotel in November 2007. Drilon was with Magdalo
leader Senator Antonio Trillanes, Brigadier Danilo Lim and 25
other Magdalo officers when they walked out of their trial,
marched through the streets of Makati City calling for the
ouster of President Arroyo and seized the Peninsula hotel
(ref C). Drilon was among the 30 journalists arrested by the
police after the Peninsula takeover. She denied police
allegations that she had prior knowledge of the takeover but
admitted that she spoke with Senator Trillanes on the eve of
the incident. Drilon and her crew were the second team of
journalists from the ABS-CBN to be kidnapped in Sulu in the
past eight years. The Abu Sayyaf Group has abducted at least
20 journalists since 2000, most of them foreign
correspondents.

—————————
ASG LEADER PARANG SUSPECTED
—————————

¶4. (C) Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Police
Director Joel Goltiao identified the primary suspects in the
kidnapping as Albader Parad and Gafur Jumdail. Parad is an
ASG sub-group leader who has long been involved in
kidnap-for-ransom and extortion activities on Jolo. During

MANILA 00001399 002 OF 003

the runup to the May 14, 2007, elections, Parad’s group
allegedly kidnapped and beheaded seven persons on Jolo when
then Sulu Governor Benjamin Loong refused to pay ransom.
Parad was later implicated in the August 9, 2007, ambush and
killing of 11 Philippine soldiers in Indanan. The armed
encounters that followed left a total of 26 Philippine
soldiers dead, the largest number of casualties on a single
day during recent years, according to then-Armed Forces of
the Philippines Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon. Among
Parad’s more recent kidnapping victims was Maria Rosalie Lao,
a Filipino-Chinese businesswoman who was abducted in Jolo
City on January 18 and later released after the payment of
ransom money to Parad’s group. Jumdail is a Jolo-based
criminal with a long list of kidnappings under his belt,
including the April 1 kidnapping of a school supervisor and
several teachers as they were en route to graduation rites at
a local elementary school in Maimbung. One week later,
Jumdail allegedly kidnapped six other persons as they were
traveling through the Maimbung area in a jeep. All of the
hostages were released upon the payment of ransom money.

———————–
ADMINISTRATION RESPONSE
———————–

¶5. (U) Immediately after the story broke June 10, President
Arroyo ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) “to
investigate, run after the perpetrators, and bring back the
victims alive and well.” She also instructed the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to “exhaust all measures” to
locate Drilon and her crew and help find information leading
to the arrest of those involved in the crime. The PNP
immediately took the lead in the search for the abducted
media crew, in close coordination with the military, ABS-CBN,
and the crisis management committee formed by the provincial
government of Sulu. Police regional director for the
Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Joel Goltiao said
the police and the Sulu crisis management team received
communication from the abductors, and confirmed that Drilon
and her crew were alive, well, and being treated fairly. PNP
chief Avelino Razon ordered police intelligence units and the
Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) team, which
specializes in kidnap for ransom cases, to join police
operations in locating Drilon and her team. Similarly, AFP
Chief of Staff Alexander Yano ordered the troops in Sulu to
monitor closely and be on standby to assist police in the
search and rescue operations.

——————-
MUSLIM CONDEMNATION
——————-

¶6. (U) Local Muslim leaders were quick to act on the
situation. Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan immediately formed a
crisis management committee to work on the release of the
hostages but advised that, in the future, journalists
covering hostile areas should make the necessary coordination
with local authorities for their own safety. ARMM Governor
Zaldy Ampatuan — up for reelection in August — condemned
the abductions and urged Muslim leaders in Sulu “to use their
influence in securing the safety of the victims.” Philippine
Council for Islam and Democracy chair Amina Rasul urged
authorities to try to resolve the situation peacefully.
International media watchdogs Reporters without Borders and
Committee to Protect Journalists joined the local media and
peace organizations in strongly condemning the abduction and
calling for the immediate release of the hostages.

——————–
LEGISLATORS WEIGH IN
——————–

¶7. (U) Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan immediately
called for the military, police, and local leaders to “leave
no stone unturned” and hold the perpetrators accountable. He
noted “the dire manifestation of dangers facing our
journalists in the practice of their profession” and pointed
to the need for strengthening the rule of law by “punishing
more and punishing fast.” Senator Rodolfo Biazon, Defense
Committee Chairman, warned that the ASG is again at its
kidnap-for-ransom activities, which are “costing the lives of
soldiers and civilians, complicating security operations of
the AFP and PNP, and affecting the peace process in
Mindanao.” Senators Loren Legarda and Ramon Revilla stressed
journalists’ status as noncombatants that should be treated
as such even in conflict areas. For his part, House Speaker
Prospero Nograles stated that he and Mindanao leaders were
“worried” about the safety of the news team as well as the
effect of the incident on the Philippine image

MANILA 00001399 003 OF 003

internationally.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶8. (C) While Drilon’s kidnapping may prove to be merely a
crime of opportunity, it is yet one more in a series of
events that are further complicating an already complex and
tense situation in Mindanao. Coupled with an uptick in armed
confrontations between Muslim insurgent groups and Philippine
Marines (ref a), the May 29 bombing in Zamboanga that
apparently targeted Philippine Marines at Edwin Andrews Air
Base, a peace process that has been stalled since December,
and the pullout of the Malaysian contingent from the
International Monitoring Team, Drilon’s abduction constitutes
part of a pattern of increased activity by the various actors
in Mindanao. The abduction could be an attempt by the ASG to
reassert its capacity to wage attacks after the surgical
strike recently launched by the AFP against one of its major
camps (ref B), or it could signal that the ASG is in
desperate need of funds. Either way, this incident will be a
test of new AFP Chief of Staff General Yano; how he handles
this situation will say much about what’s in store in
Mindanao in the next few months.
KENNEY

   

 

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