By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent
MANILA — The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) on April 13, refuted the inclusion of the Philippines in the US State Department’s list of countries with increased risk of kidnapping, citing the downward trend in abduction cases in recent years.
“A list is just a list. What we have are factual data pointing to the decreasing number of kidnapping cases in the Philippines. That’s what we are banking on,” Interior Sec. Eduardo Año said according to ABS-CBN News, crediting the government’s relentless and pro-active stance for peace and order.
“(T)here were only 68 cases of kidnapping in the country in 2018, majority of which were in Mindanao, 11 cases lower than in 2017. As of this writing, there are only 10 cases of kidnapping for 2019,” Año added.
In a travel advisory issued on April 09, the US State Department advised its citizens travelling to the Philippines to “exercise increased caution” following its inclusion of the country to other high-threat countries labelled with K, to easily communicate the risks of kidnapping and hostage-taking by criminals and terrorists around the world to its citizens.
Aside from the Philippines, Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine (Russian-controlled east), Venezuela and Yemen are also included in the list.
“Travel advisories are issued for every country around the world, offering standardized levels of advice based on established risk indicators such as crime, terrorism, civil unrest, natural disasters, health, and other potential risks,” the US State Department said.
The US is also flagging the country due to crime, terrorism, civil unrest and a measles outbreak, as the Sulu archipelago, Sulu Sea and Marawi City were placed at Level 4 (Do Not Travel).
“Terrorist and armed groups continue to conduct kidnappings on land and at sea for ransom, bombings and other attacks targeting US citizens, foreigners, civilians, local government institutions and security forces,” the advisory said of the three areas in Mindanao. Mindanao has been under martial law since 2017.
“Civilians are at risk of death or injury due to conflict between remnants of terrorist groups and Philippine security forces in Marawi,” it said.
Año in a statement, meanwhile, said he will raise the issue with the US Embassy to seek more information on the list’s parameters.
“We do not know yet how they came up with the list but . . . we see no basis for including us in this list. We will request from the US Embassy what were the parameters used since even Malaysia and Russia were included,” Año said.
Malacañang, on the other hand, has admitted some criminals manage to perform illegal activities despite law enforcement agencies’ high level of alertness.
“Our PNP (Philippine National Police) and the military are always on alert. They have intelligence surveillance. But somehow, some (criminals) slip past authorities,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said told The Philippine Star at a press briefing.
“It happens to every country,” Panelo added, citing an isolated incident involving the kidnapping of businessman and chief of the anti-crime group of assassinated Tanauan, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili, Allan Fajardo, abducted from the lobby of a hotel in Laguna with his driver.