Thursday, May 3, 2012

Philippines: Despite Government Efforts, Kidnapped Australian Still Missing After 4 Months

For those of our readers who have been following the kidnapping of Australian citizen Warren Rodwell, 53, who was kidnapped in December 2011, Mr. Rodwell is seemingly still in the hands of his captors four months later.

Unfortunately, when kidnapped in the southern Philippines, Rodwell resisted several gunmen and was shot and injured in the process of being taken. A month later  [January 2012], the photograph of a fatigued and ailing Rodwell was released demanding a US$2 million ransom payment.

COMMENT: Although Rodwell remains missing, it is not due to lack of effort or the expenditure of police and military resources on the part of the government of the Philippines, who have constantly patrolled areas where kidnappers operate.

In this regard, it needs to be mentioned that Mindanao, which is the island from which Rodwell was kidnapped on December 5, 2011, specifically in the town of Ipil, in Zamboanga Sibugay province, is a massive geographical region. First of all, Mindanao includes some 7,000 islands encompassing an area of 37,657 square miles (or 97,530 kilometers).

Regrettably, the longer that Rodwell is held by kidnappers, particularly in isolated, austere conditions, the less likelihood there is for him to survive the hostage experience.

The reality is that kidnap victims of means usually have the financial resources or kidnap-ransom insurance or both to secure their freedom. Unfortunately for Rodwell, he was not financially secure. Yet, given the policies of both the Australian and Philippine government not to pay ransom, Rodwell's only hope is that eventually he will be found. 

It is also possible that the Australian has been moved into areas of the southern Philippines where encountering government patrols is very unlikely.

Most embassies in Manila have in recent years strongly discouraged their citizens from traveling to the southern Philippines, or completely banned such travel, because of the clear and present danger of being kidnapped for ransom. 

It should also be noted that Rodwell refused the offer of police protection during the period that he was living in Ipil, with his Filipina wife.  His alternative solution was to buy a handgun to protect himself from professional kidnappers equipped with AK-47 assault rifles. He clearly underestimated the threat he faced.