Two days after the release of American Milton Taylor, we can establish some facts:
1. He was kidnapped in January in Cagayan de Oro City.
2. He was released on Wednesday, April 13.
3. At least one Lanao del Sur official paid P100,000 for his release, according to Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano.
4. At least one official report links his kidnappers to the MILF’s 102nd Base Command.
According to an official report, Milton Taylor checked into Lamar Inn in Cagayan de Oro City as “Sam Taylor” in December 2010. He disappeared on January 11, 2011. Four days later, hotel staff did an inventory of his belongings in room 604. On January 19, the hotel’s credit department reported him to the police for not paying bills amounting to about P30,000.
Four days later on January 22, sources tell me a woman contacted the US embassy to tell officials that Taylor was missing. Col. Leo Ferrer of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade said the US embassy reported that to the Philippines in January as well. At least one official report called Taylor “a known treasure hunter” and one concluded “that said foreign national was evading from his accountability of the said hotel.”
Military and police intelligence sources tell me that on February 11, Taylor allegedly called a friend and demanded Php 10 million in ransom (about USD 230,000) for his kidnappers. This was confirmed by Senior Superintendent Antonio Montalba, deputy police director of the Cagayan de Oro Police, to the Gold Star Daily.
Later on February 11, intelligence sources say his cell phone was used by his kidnappers, who demanded ransom and threatened to kill him if they didn’t get the money.
A little more than a week later, authorities received two videos of Taylor reading a ransom demand. The one I posted yesterday (a close-up) started with the date – January 29. This video, a long-shot, has no date.
The initial demand for Php 10 million was gradually reduced to Php 300,000 before settling at Php 100,000, says Mayor Emano, “for board and lodging.” He said the US embassy refused to pay any money because of its government’s no-ransom policy.
On Wednesday, April 13, Philippine government officials as well as officers of the police and military confirmed Taylor had been kidnapped.
After his release, Taylor told reporters two people approached him at a food stall in Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro City. “They brought me to Iligan City and from there, we transferred to another vehicle, and they blindfolded me. It was a scary experience,” he said.
Although there have been no official statements on the kidnappers, a classified intelligence report states: “the perpetrators are followers of CMDR MERCURY and CMDR SANTIAGO, both belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) 102nd Base Command.”
Again, this is where it gets interesting. The 102nd Base Command operates in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City. Taylor was released Wednesday afternoon at the boundary of Piagapo in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City. Chief Supt Bienvenido Latag said police and military operatives nearly cornered the kidnappers.
The 102nd Base Command is led by Abdulrahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo. In 2008, Bravo was one of three “renegade” MILF commanders charged by the government for attacks and civilian deaths in four towns in Lanao del Norte. The government offered Php 10 million for him. MILF’s chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said then the MILF would investigate the three but would not surrender them to the government.
Kidnap for ransom is a familiar money-making venture for the Abu Sayyaf. Are “renegade” groups of the MILF now using the same tactics?
Having documented all this, let me leave you with a loose end I still have to tie: credible sources within the international intelligence community still have not completely ruled out a “kidnap me” scenario.
Have a good weekend everyone!