After the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped, and then beheaded, those seven men--a fish vendor and six hired hands of a road repair crew, their decapitated bodies were dumped on a roadside for the authorities to find after a ransom of 5 million pesos was not paid. They were shown on ABSCBN News prime time television last night, under some banana leaves in the back of a dump truck. But their bound hands and feet showing through the hurriedly heaped-over cover litter bespoke of a terrifying and gruesome death at the hands of cruel and heartless killers.
Perhaps, it was, as advertised, the Abu Sayyaf's new commander on the block, Albader Parad, serving notice that despite recent setbacks and the loss of key leaders like Khadafy Janjalani, the bandit-terrorists still keep a sharp blade handy and are out to show the world that nope, they haven't changed one bit and if the world doesn't pay the demanded ransoms, then they will chop somebody's heads off!
Or could this be the new calling card of the Moro National Liberation Front Commander Habier Malik and his MNLF faction? Has Malik crossed that easy line of transistion between lawful autonomy into Moro rebellion, following the "failure" of the 1996 peace agreement between the government and Nur Misuari's old rebel group? Perhaps the Abu Sayyaf is merely the Mr. Hyde persona that Dr. Jekyll morphs into whenever he swallows the transformative elixir. Strong insinuations have surfaced in the media covering this story that the MNLF gave the Abu Sayyaf the go-ahead for the decapitations, as a sign of its displeasure over "peace negotiations" during this frantic election season.
It was Habier Malik, it will be recalled, who held as hostage a number of high ranking Philippine government and military officials a few weeks ago, receiving from said government, some P450 thousand pesos in ransom money (or "hosting fees"). Recently Mr. Malik decided to go on the offensive and reportedly attacked a Philippine Marine position. He is currently being hunted by the authorities.
Maria Ressa, head of ABSCBN News Public Affairs and a regional terrorism expert was discussing the complex situation in Mindanao with Ricky Carandang, where the MNLF, the MILF, the Abu Sayyaf, and various foreign organizations like the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are all mixed up together with the Philippine government in negotiations and consultations of various kinds, which some people like to call "peace talks." One sticking point in the present talks between the government and MILF, for example, is what will happen to the 1996 peace agreement it signed with the MNLF, under a new peace deal. Is that why it is the MNLF attacking government forces this time around?
The problem is, one never knows who one is really talking to in Mindanao, where not even the peace negotiators can be sure they themselves won't be taken hostage!