WE have been sharing the grief of the family and friends of Canadian citizen John Ridsdel, savagely murdered on Monday by his Abu Sayyaf Group abductors after being held hostage for six months. We also strongly agree with the strong statement of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said, “This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”
And we appreciate that Prime Minister Trudeau did not direct any of the blame toward our government, though he easily could have. Ridsdel’s death was entirely preventable.
Indeed, the ASG is wholly responsible for killing him – but the leadership in our armed forces, in our police forces, and in Malacañang are responsible for allowing it to happen.
If the ASG were a new phenomenon we might not feel such frustration at our government’s apparent inability to come to grips with the problem, but that is not the case.
The ASG long ago dropped any pretense of having any sort of religious or political aims, and has simply become a kidnap-for-ransom gang of thugs, one that for at least the last several years or so we have been told by our government and other interested parties such as the US, numbers perhaps 200 or 300 members at most.
The group certainly is extremely vicious, highly experienced in the sort of “warfare” they conduct, and very much at home in the areas in Mindanao in which they operate, and they should not be taken lightly by the forces sent to fight them. By the same token, they remain small in number, are comparatively less well-equipped than our Philippine military and police assets are, and have not significantly changed their tactics or areas of activity in many years.
At this point, there should be little to nothing our armed forces and government does not understand about the ASG, and yet for all the official bravado about waging an “all-out war,” or “relentlessly pursuing” the bandits, the law enforcement agencies are completely confounded by them. Despite these government efforts, the ASG still holds, at last report, as many as 18 other hostages, most of them foreign citizens, including three people in Ridsdel’s group – a Norwegian, and another Canadian and his Filipina partner – who are now in even graver peril of suffering the same fate.
It is long past time for the government to declare “all-out war” on these savage hoodlums and actually mean it. Unlike the circumstances of the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, its parent organization the Moro National Liberation Front, or the New People’s Army, all of whom have legitimate social and political concerns (despite how wrong their means of pursuing them may be), there is no value in engaging in discussions or otherwise trying to understand the ASG. They are criminals of the worst sort, and deserve to be treated as such – pursued with every available resource and brought to justice if at all possible, or destroyed if not.
We can no longer tolerate the savage greed of one small band of criminals or the ineffectiveness of our government ruining the image of the country before the world. Because, as is almost always the case, it is not just a matter of image, but of lost innocent lives, and the imposition of terror for terror’s sake on underserved and underdeveloped parts of the country.
We pray for the repose of the soul of Mr. Ridsdel, and we fervently pray for the safety of his friends who have not yet been freed. May God also grant the strength of arms and of will to our leaders and our armed forces to finally rid our land of this scourge.