Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza
Good afternoon from Manila!
The headlines and front pages of the major dailies here are focused (scoop) on the Ces Drilon abduction by the Abu Sayyaf, the CIA-created jihadist group operating in Mindanao (southern Philippines; Ces Drilon is a rated journalist of the oligarchic ABS-CBN). Reports say the P15 Million rock-bottom ransom is out, and that the jihadists have signaled an ultimatum.
As this is happening, the national army is massing up troops and intelligence assets in the area, supposedly as part of the ‘stick tactic’ that could glue the terrorists to the bargaining table. This is old-hat psych-op that belabors on the obvious, which even kindergarten minds are aware about.
The real score in the current ‘abduction game’ as well as in previous ones is that it is an opportunity for rouge military officers to sell armaments to the terrorists. I have already tackled the matter of rouge arms sellers, and factored the USA’s Pentagon neo-cons as the current force behind such abominations within the Philippines’ armed forces or national army.
As discussed in a previous article, terrorist abduction is an amusingly ‘win/win’ situation in an affected area. I also tacked the matter of pricing strategy for ransom and the network of peacekeepers involved in the process. The one bannered on headlines, worth P15 Million, is the rock-bottom price, while the maximum ransom, per estimates leaking to media and experts, shoots up to $5 Million.
The question that comes into mind now is, with the massing up of army operations in the affected area (Indanan, Sulu island province), how would the abduction be handled as a whole from both sides? Aware that rouge elements are inside the army who are up to sell arms to the jihadists, do the terrorists possess the funds for paying the rouge soldiers?
The problem, which finance experts may better reflect on, is that the cash to pay rebels hasn’t been fully forwarded yet. The only cash paid so far was for the release of the camera crewman of Drilon, who is a low-bankable player and in the latest abduction game. Though seemingly a nuisance, the value of the crew is that, while negotiations were in process for his release, the jihadists were able to spy on the connecting threads and linkages of operators and peacekeepers on the “other side” of the table.
Such a situation is precisely what hedge funds are for. Portfolio capital can serve precisely as cash forward to the party involved (jihadists), while the same portfolio operator can likewise hedge the scheduled cash flow inputs of the paying group (Lopez group). As I was saying in a previous article, insurance companies and hedge funds operators have a ‘window of opportunity’ in the context of a ‘force majeure’ event such as terror abduction.
The final question is, in case that no cash forwards will get through to the jihadists, and no guarantees for luscious purchases by the army and designated bagmen operators, will the ‘stick operations’ pursue? Will Drilon finally be released by the jihadists in case that they feel the pressure from the army assault on their lairs?
These types of operations are already routine in Mindanao’s life and hardly make a dent on public attention that is focused on other hard issues like oil price hikes and inflation. What makes the case unique is the person of Drilon who is an asset of the ABS-CBN, a Lopez family firm. The jihadists know the great sins of the Lopez utilities notably the Meralco on the public, which could factor in the dynamics of the abduction.
Needless to say, the Lopez sinners can pay the price of the latest game. Government can also exact a bit of revenge for the beating it got when its board representatives in the MERALCO lose in bidding for chairmanship and juicy posts. Or, perhaps a turn-around that could see the release of Drilon and heavy beating (with high casualties) of the jihadists would happen, thus increasing the palatability of the government control of the MERALCO firm.
The scenario is no determinate one as the situation is fluid. You can make your own guesses about the compass of the abduction. In case you’re following up on the news, better do your own scenario building now while the “soup is hot.”
[Writ 17 June 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]