Money, not romance, is what drives some people to protect the Abu Sayyaf, a leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said yesterday.
At the same time, MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla urged the government to look into the possibility that some ranking military, police and government officials have been protecting the bandit group in exchange for a share in the ransom money paid by relatives of kidnap victims.
Fontanilla said the arrest of police Superintendent Maria Cristina Nobleza and her alleged Abu Sayyaf lover Reneer Lou Dongon confirms rumors in Sulu and Basilan regarding the collusion between the terrorist group and some people in government.
“Kidnapping has become a cottage industry in Mindanao and everyone who kidnaps, shelters and negotiates for ransom gets their share,” Fontanilla said, adding this is the reason kidnapping activities continue despite the intensified military and police operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
“Money, not romance lures people to protect the Abu Sayyaf bandit group,” he added.
Fontanilla expressed belief the bandits have accumulated a huge sum of money that they decided to expand their network in the Visayas, just like what happened recently in Bohol.
He was referring to an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf to set up base in Bohol where some of the bandits were neutralized by government security forces in separate encounters in Inabanga and Clarin towns.
Nobleza and Dongon were believed to be on their way to rescue the remaining bandits trapped in Bohol when they were arrested on Saturday night.
“The Bohol incident is just the tip of a well-organized group. Unless these influential people protecting the Abu Sayyaf are unmasked, kidnapping activities will continue not only in Mindanao but in other parts of the country,” Fontanilla said.