Friday, March 22, 2013

Philippines: Media Hype Should be Ignored in Hostage Cases, Only Releases Are Remembered

As most of our readers know, I have posted countless reports on Australian citizen Warren Rodwell, now 54, who ignored Australian government travel warnings not to visit the southern Philippines, only to be kidnapped by a large group of heavily armed gunmen on December 5, 2011, and eventually ended up in the hands of the indigenous terror group, Abu Sayyaf.

Unfortunately, Rodwell, a self-described adventurer, albeit impoverished, actually declined offers of police protection prior to his being kidnapped.

Alternatively, the Australian decided to purchase a handgun, thinking it would be sufficient against a large group of gunmen experienced in kidnapping foreigners.

When kidnapped from his home, Rodwell was understandably injured when he resisted kidnappers with his pistol.

COMMENT: Although there have been various rumors for months concerning the efforts by a number of persons to secure Rodwell's release, one of whom was Rodwell's friend, the reality is that the Australian hostage has been a captive for roughly 15 months without the benefit of being rescued.

That being said, Abu Sayyaf has had numerous setbacks during the course of the last two years and is severely cash-strapped.  

Thus, it is very unlikely that the group is going to release a hostage that they have spent a lot of effort in safeguarding from Filipino military and police patrols who have been searching exhaustively for the Australian.  

Although ransom demands for Rodwell's release have varied between $1 million and $2 million, even 10% of that estimate would be well beyond the reach of Rodwell's assets, unless, of course, generous Australians have "passed the hat" to secure the former soldier's release. 

It has been my experience that genuine negotiations for a kidnap victim's release are almost invariably kept secret and not discussed in the media, until such time as a settlement is agreed upon between the negotiator and the kidnappers and suddenly the captive is released. 

Another facet of this kidnapping is that if Abu Sayyaf "low-balls" the ransom demand, that no doubt will send a very strong signal to the group's fighters that the group has lost its "mojo," resulting in a likely loss of followers.

My sense is that the Australian government would not jeopardize positive relations with the government of the Philippines, as "burning bridges" could very well disrupt vitally needed diplomatic help in the future. 

One lesson-learned for all foreigners is to not disobey the travel warnings of one's government, particularly if you're not prosperous. 

On the other hand, if Mr. Rodwell is eventually released, he no doubt will write a lucrative book based on his hostage experience, thereby becoming an instant expert.