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Art of ransom negotiation
Publication Date : 02-08-2014
What was the ransom paid for a Filipino construction worker abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo island?
Going by news reports on Remigio Linggayan, who was released on July 27, the 50-year-old man’s freedom was bought for 500,000 peso (US$11,406). According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the family and his employer handed over the cash to the Abu Sayyaf captors.
Linggayan’s family raised 200,000 peso ($4,562) and his employer paid 300,000 peso ($6,843)
To raise the ransom, the Linggayans collected small peso bills and coins from friends and neighbours in their village in Zamboanga City.
In a telephone interview with The Star, Linggayan, who was in his hometown of Zamboanga City that is about 20 minutes by plane from Jolo island, said abducted marine policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip was safe but kept under close guard by an Abu Sayyaf faction in the jungles of Indanan in Jolo island.
“He is unharmed. I heard some of the gunmen talking about another group holding a Malay policeman. They said he was all right,” he said.
Kons Zakiah, 26, was abducted when kidnap-for-ransom gunmen attacked Mabul Water Bungalows Resort in Pulau Mabul on July 12.
His colleague Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed in the attack. Unlike Linggayan’s 500,000 peso (US$11,406) ransom, the price for Kons Zakiah’s freedom might be premium.
“The kidnap-for-ransom groups now prefer to operate in Sabah instead of southern Philippines as you (Malaysia) pay well,” said a Filipino security forces official, grinning while we drank San Miguel and ate inihaw na pusit (grilled squid) in the famous Gerry’s Grill restaurant in Zamboanga City last month.
“You (Malaysia) also pay very quickly. Usually, we will advise the family of victims to drag the negotiations as the longer the process, the lower the ransom will be,” said the official, who is also a kidnap-and-ransom negotiator.
“We didn’t pay for the Taiwanese hostage. The Taiwanese government had its own deal with the kidnappers,” I said.
On Nov 15 last year, 58-year-old Taiwanese Chang An Wei was abducted at gunpoint after her 57-year-old husband Li Min Hsu was shot dead by Filipino gunmen in the exclusive island resort off Semporna town in Sabah.
Chang was freed after 36 days in captivity in Jolo island. It is believed that US$2 million was paid to secure her release.
“It is only for the Chinese tourist that the negotiation process for her release was fast,” I said, referring to Shanghai tourist Gao Huayun, 29, who was kidnapped together with Filipino resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, from Singamata Reef Resort on April 3. They were released by Abu Sayyaf captors on May 30.
“We even have a Malaysian hostage who died in captivity as the negotiation process was long. So it is not fair to say that we are quick in paying the kidnappers,” I said.
On Nov 14, 2012, cousins Tung Wee Jie and Wee Wei were abducted from their family-run bird’s nest farm in Lahad Datu.
Wee Jie, 26, managed to escape from his captors after being held for almost nine months in Jolo Island. Wee Wei, 34, died of illness while in captivity.
The story of Linggayan, who was in captivity for 53 days, gives a glimpse into the negotiation ordeal Kons Zakiah and his family may go through.
The Filipino was kidnapped together with his brother-in-law Joselito Gonzales, a construction worker, at gunpoint while doing pipe-laying work in Indanan, Jolo island, on June 5.
In a press conference held after his release, Linggayan said Gonzalez died when the Armed Forces of the Philippines shelled an Abu Sayyaf hideout where they were held on June 19.
“We scampered for safety and I got separated from him. He was hit in the belly during the explosion,” he said, as reported by the Philippines Daily Inquirer.
The Abu Sayyaf captors had initially asked for 20 million peso ($435,900) ransom. Through negotiations, they reduced it to seven million peso ($160,024), to three million peso ($68,493) and to one million peso ($22,820). The process was filled with threats.
On June 18, the Abu Sayyaf captors called Analiza Linggayan and gave her a 10-day ultimatum – pay three million peso, or they would behead her husband Remigio and Gonzalez before Ramadan.
When the ultimatum expired, the Abu Sayyaf captors did not behead Linggayan. On June 29, Analiza said the kidnappers called her family to inform her that they had cancelled his execution in observance of Ramadan.
On July 11, his family was given until 3pm to pay one million peso ($22,812), or his captors would sell him to a notorious group called “Laki Laki” or “Laki 9”. The captors also told them that Gonzalez was not killed in a crossfire but they had beheaded him.
She said her husband had told her not to worry if she could not pay his ransom as he had already accepted his fate if he was killed by his captors.
In a press statement, Analiza begged Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Zamboanga City mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar to help secure the release of her husband.
“The government is only interested to help wealthy individuals who are kidnapped,” she said.
“It is normal for the captors to issue threats during negotiations,” former Abu Sayyaf hostage Octavio A. Dinampo told me in an interview in his house in Indanan last month. “When they become frustrated with the negotiation process, they use psychological threats on the hostage.”
Dinampo, who was kidnapped together with well-known Filipino news anchor Ces Drillion and others on Jolo island on June 8, 2008, said the captors would show the hostage a bolo (machete) and say, “This bolo was used to behead 12 people. If your family or government doesn’t pay, your head will be the 13th”.
The psychological threats, he said, were made so that a frightened hostage would ask his family via satellite phone or hand phone to accelerate the negotiation process.
The last thing the hostage negotiator should do, according to the kidnap-and-ransom negotiator I interviewed in Zambaonga City, was to accelerate the negotiation process.
“Try to keep the ransom as low as possible,” he said. “If not, the kidnap-for-ransom groups will want to kidnap again in Sabah as the ransom is too lucrative.”