Sunday, May 6, 2012

Philippines: Abu Sayyaf Reduces, Sets Ransom Deadline for Rodwell, Otherwise He Will Be Beheaded

As a follow-up to several previous postings, a newly released proof-of-life video shows Australian Warren Rodwell, 53, looking gaunt and making a desperate plea for a ransom  payment to save his life after more than four months in captivity in the southern Philippines.

It should be noted that most embassies in Manila have strongly discouraged their citizens from traveling to the southern Philippines, particularly Mindanao and Sula, given the clear and present danger of ransom kidnappings by kidnap gangs and the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf. 

Ron Masling, 57, an apparent friend of Rodwell's, who obtained the video, says the Abu Sayyaf  kidnappers have set a four-week deadline to be paid or they will behead him. It should be noted, though, that the original ransom demand of A$2 million has been reduced to A$460,000.

That being said, the Australian government is less than pleased that Masling, who has lived in the Philippines for years, who orchestrated the video with Rodwell seen holding a copy of The Philippine Daily Inquirer dated March 26, is now attempting to sell the video to Australian media organizations for a large sum of money. Hence, Masling is much more of a greedy opportunist than a compassionate friend.

COMMENT: In the second video, Rodwell, depicted as looking fatigued and frail, reportedly pleads for his life and appeals to Australia's prime minister and Australians to raise money for the ransom demand so he can be released. Obviously, Rodwell is unaware or is ignoring the fact that both the Australian and Philippine governments have stated policies of not making concessions to kidnappers.

What is so interesting in this case is that Masling obviously used people he knew in the Philippines to contact the kidnappers who agreed to produce the video. Thus, the begging question is if Masling's contacts could reach out to the Abu Sayyaf, why can't Philippine security forces?

I would wholeheartedly agree with the Australian government's position on the questionable voracity and good-faith intentions as to Masling's role in orchestrating the video. If anything, he potentially could be charged with obstruction of justice. That is, if he knows the people who reached out to the kidnappers, why can't they lead authorities to where Rodwell is being held?

The positive news from all of this is that most credible newspapers have not responded to the temptation to purchase the rights to publish Masling's video.

Masling has reportedly told the media that the Australian government has done little to help Rodwell, which is unfounded. Assuredly, the Australian Embassy in Manila has urged its citizens not to travel to the southern Philippines for several years. Hence, if Rodwell had not "blown off" that advice, he would not be the predicament he finds himself.

Additionally, because of his risk of being kidnapped in Ipil, Rodwell was offered local police protection but declined it. Instead, he chose to buy a handgun to protect himself from kidnappers, only to be outgunned by kidnappers equipped with assault rifles. 

Worse, the Australian resisted being kidnapped, which resulted in his being wounded at the time of the kidnapping. All and all, Rodwell has made several bad choices that have tragically led to his circumstances, all because he thought he knew better than anyone else.