Bro. Erle Frayne Argonza
Good afternoon from Manila!
As of this moment, Manila is in the heat of coffee shop speculations about the fate of the recently abducted Ces Drilon & crew, personnel of the oligarchic network ABS-CBN, by the Abu Sayyaf. The ‘cara y cruz’ debate is whether the Lopez group will pay for the ransom of Drilon & crew, amounting to $5 Million more or less.
Having observed peacekeeping for some time now, and having had the privilege of being close to peace negotiators on both camps (state and rebel counsels), I know very well about the perks that go with peacekeeping. A favorite popular idiom today, when one is uncertain whether to push through with a work engagement, is “i-career mo na” (make a career out of it). This goes through for peacekeeping.
Let me ping straight to the point: there’s a lot of kickbacks in peacekeeping, that is why it is a great project engagement for any state official to role-play peacekeeper. On the terrorist side, mujahideen work becomes adventure, fun and good life as sweet money would come around every time that abductions and raids would be mounted. Abduction, specifically, is a ‘win/win’ situation (Fidel Ramos favorite idiom).
Here is the value chain of abduction: A group of young terrorists are tasked to abduct any bankable personage or group. Most probably a preliminary assessment had been done about the ‘book value’ of the proposed victims. With all parameters and actions observed (on the backward and forward linkages, inputs and outputs), the group then proceeds to abduct the bankable victim and team members.
The ever ready peacekeepers, actual (those with mandates) and potential (those local and other personages who can do go-between or back-channel tasks), will then quickly respond to the situation. The terrorists are aware of the chain of peacekeepers, and knowing the “10% goes to Boss” S.O.P., they already padded the price of the ransom. A lot of contingency expenses are entailed in the negotiations, a lot of risks too, so all operating expenditures must be covered in the ransom estimate.
The bargaining then begins as soon as the peacekeepers rendezvous with the terrorists or their authorized agents. To show semblance of civility and concern, the peacekeepers would try to strike a bargain, but not rock-bottom please. Nobody wants to come home empty-handed, please understand.
Upon doing the preliminary rendezvous, the terrorist group or T-Group would then re-assess the estimate. They have already done their own counter-espionage about the ‘chain of peacekeepers’, so this dovetails in the decision whether it is sound to scale down or move up the ransom. Factoring along the number of new T-Group recruits who may need immediate ‘glad tidings’ support is also an important decision input here.
The family or firm that is set to pay ransom will make the pronouncement that “there will be no ransom” and the rationale that “we will not and never will negotiate with criminals and terrorists.” This is a mere cover-up by-line, remember, I know this for a fact. Non-payment is too remote from reality, I’m very certain about this.
What is factual is that the family or firm would have to decide quickly to pay more as soon as a bargain had been done via back-channel. Often than not, the paying group must also offer gifts (payola incentives) to the back-channel negotiators. Payment must really be quick and sweeping. Because failure to do so would make the T-Group raise the ransom, and the negotiations after that would be more difficult, hazardous, and the chain of peacekeepers would rise, perhaps following 2-3 chain tracks.
So, what happens upon the conclusion of the deal is that everybody will be happy. Jihadists are awash with funds for operations and payments of assets, locality’s banks are awash with fresh cash that will then circulate back into the local economy, and happiest of all will be the peacekeepers whose purses and secret vaults will bulge with fresh funds. Everybody gets a lot of news exposures, the media personnel abducted will have tons of materials for new write ups and reportage, the paying group will project an angelic mien as philanthropic moguls worth your emulation.
Perhaps the insurance companies should cash in on terror abductions and attacks, and open up ‘terror insurance’ or maybe peg them as ‘force majeure’ with specifications applicable to terror-operated abductions. And, maybe they can even partner with wealthy peacekeepers to study the viability of hedge funds operations for abductions. Isn’t this a fantastic proposal?
[Writ 15 June 2008, Manila, Quezon City]