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REVISITING THE LAMITAN SIEGE

June 21, 2008

Remember the Lamitan siege? The shameful incident comes to mind again owing to the recent kidnapping of ABS-CBNs Ces Drilon by the dreaded Abu Sayyaf group. (The release of Drilon and company is said to have been secured through payment of ransom and the negotiators themselves are now being accused as accomplices to the crime). Lamitan was the story of a rescue operation gone crazy amid shocking allegations of complicity between government officials and Abu Sayyaf kidnappers over ransom payments.

I am posting the following links for future reference:

Probe into the Lamitan hospital siege suggesting collusion between AFP and Abu Sayyaf (link courtesy of John Marzan)

The central figure in the controversy, Lt. Gen. Romeo Domingez’s, giving his side in the comment section of this entry by Tom and Frayed

Asia Times Online has Philippines on Trial Over Hostage Tale. This is the story of how the Philippine government twisted Gracia Burnham’s testimony to the effect that she was exonerating the armed forces from allegations of collusion with the bandit group

Several times while on the stand, Burnham was asked by defense lawyers if she thought there was “connivance” between the military and Abu Sayyaf. Even before she had a chance to answer, the three government prosecutors stood up and made objections to the question, all of which the judge immediately sustained.

While Burnham was prohibited from speaking with the press and was quickly whisked out of the country, her book gives the real answers to the questions asked.

The day after her testimony, government officials were proclaiming that Burnham had cleared the military of any wrongdoing.

The article quotes extensively from Burnham’s book In the Presence of My Enemies:

On pages 222-223, Gracia writes about how, after months on the run and being exhausted and hungry, the group’s food supply suddenly changed for the better.

“The armed forces were feeding us!” she writes. “A group of them [army] met our guys [Abu Sayyaf] and handed over quantities of rice, dried fish, coffee and sugar. This happened several times over the course of a few weeks. Why in the world did President Arroyo’s troops provide the Abu Sayyaf with their daily bread? We were told that it was because Sabaya [the Abu Sayyaf’s spokesman] was wheeling and dealing with the AFP [army] general of that area over how to split up any ransom that might be paid. Arlyn de la Cruz [a television reporter from Manila who had managed to find the group to do a story] had warned us about that. ‘You know, this is going to be a really big deal,’ she [Arlyn] said, ‘and everybody is going to expect their share’,” Burnham writes.

“Sabaya was willing to give the general 20% of the action. But the messenger reported back that this wasn’t enough. The general wanted 50% – when his own government steadfastly condemned the ransom concept altogether.”

How shameful. How degenerate.

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