K4R

June 21st, 2008

RANSOM, n. The purchase of that which neither belongs to the seller, nor can belong to the buyer. The most unprofitable of investments.”

Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce

The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, is a satirical book published in 1911, a period when Kidnap for Ransom was still not a thought about crime. In the turn of the century Kidnap for Ransom became one of the most lucrative criminal enterprise, that it has become a criminal cottage industry in most underdeveloped countries like the Philippines.

Kidnap for Ransom (KFR) thrive in societies where there is break down in law and order, gross graft and corruption in government and massive poverty a living reality. Through the years, KFR syndicates had evolved and developed into a more complex organization and acquired sophistication in its operations. An example of a KFR organization and its modus operandi was shown in Denzel Washington’s movie, Man on Fire. The movie showed how a KFR organization operates in different stages and its plan executed by compartmentalized groups. Although the movie does not present itself as a standard police field manual for anti-KFR operations, but it presents facts common and shared by various countries. Most glaring of which is the direct involvement of key Government officials or the Police and Military in KFR groups.

The movie Man on Fire showed four different sub-groups executing one KFR operation. Compartmentalized operation insulates potential spilling of beans in the event that KFR operatives get arrested. It secures the object and ensures success of the KFR operation. As shown in the movie, one group is involved only in gathering intelligence, the other group is tasked to extract the object, the other one for the safekeeping of the object and the last is the group of negotiator/s.

In the Philippines we have variations of this kind of KFR operation. The one mentioned above is most commonly used and executed by “professional and veteran” KFR syndicates. And most likely it involves an insider from within the Bureaucracy, the Police and military.There are also KFR operations where the operation is planned and excuted only by one group, but when the shit hits the fan, they transfer the object to another group.

The worst kind is the by-chance-kidnapping, where no plan is actually involved. The conduct comes only from impulse of the one acting as leader of the gang. This is common among local criminals who by chance happened to spot a potential victim and by spur of the moment just kidnaps the victim. This is the most messy and dangerous kind of kidnapping, because if the gang feels so much pressure, they easily panic and will simply execute the victim. The planning comes only as the crime progresses, that is why at the very instance, no clear demand is immediately made. In the process they are intercepted by, or they themselves seek out, other interested groups for assistance and in return a share of the ransom. It is only then that clearer demands and even the choice of negotiator by the kinappers suddenly come to fore. The recent ABS-CBN Crew kidnapping in Sulu might fall under one or combination of this kind of kidnapping.

Most, if not all, of the kidnapping cases in the Philippines, were resolved by a ransom being paid the abductors. Even if the government’s standard response would be a “NO RANSOM POLICY,” the actual negotiation in the ground goes on differently. The ransom money are being passed on from one hand to another, and along the way some of it find its way to someone else’s pocket other than the kidnappers. This is the reason why Kidnap for Ransom has become a lucrative cottage industry in our country. It makes the kidnappers rich, and those who are supposed to be hunting them down, a million richer.

Most relatives of kidnap victims prefer to pay the ransom immediately, even if the police continuously say to the press about the government’s NO RANSOM POLICY. The families of the kidnap victim knows that they will still end up having to pay the ransom anyway. One cannot blame the families of the kidnapped victims in paying the ransom. They are put in a similar situation like in the 1996 movie, Ransom, where Kate Mullen (played by Rene Russo) said to his husband Tom Mullen(Mel Gibson), a rich airline owner, “You paid off to save your airline. Why won’t you pay off to save your son?”

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