There's a point in any long drawn-out crisis that, once crossed, signals its devolution into farce. In the case of the Ces Drilon kidnapping, it's arguable where exactly that point was; but cross that line we did. But really, what's new?
Now that Ces Drilon, her crew, and her guide are free, we can perhaps indulge in a little armchair analysis without fear of jinxing any hostages.
Was it the moment that Indanan mayor Alvarez Isnaji became a hostage negotiator? For after all, in what is clearly a criminal matter, what influence does a mere mayor really wield? Does the mayor hold a position of respect and authority that bandits should lend weight to his words as regards a hostage; but not enough so as not to have gone into banditry in the first place?
As kidnappers, the bandits have also been exceedingly coy. It took several days before they put forward their ransom demand for P15-M. Were they shrewdly feeling out the situation to arrive at the right price? Or was the demand the victim of another news embargo? Questions and suspicions remain as to how much overhead negotiators add on to this demand, a practice alleged by past hostages. Regardless, kidnapping in the Philippines has evolved to such high art that we now make distinctions between ransom -- which everyone will disavow -- and "board-and-lodging" -- which somehow seems more acceptable.
Or perhaps it was when the relatives of the victims came forward in the media, begging the bandits to release their loved ones. Now there's no shame in tears, but under the glare of the cameras and broadcast throughout the nation, the hint of performance and exploitation becomes stronger. Why must we always grieve and lament out in the open? Why don't we have any sense of decorum? At the same time, we certainly must think that we have the kindest-hearted bandits who should be so moved by emotion.
Friday noon, the deadline for the ransom -- oh, excuse me, the "board-and-lodging fee" -- came and went; instead of the worst coming to pass, the deadline was extended...indefinitely. I'll leave you to ponder the Filipino oxymoron that is the "indefinite deadline"; but I will say that it was then that I had to laugh out loud. Once more, the lack of resolve murks up the light.
And there you have it: farce. This is not the first time that bandits in the area have ventured into kidnapping. (That very word -- "bandits" -- in this day and age, in a country with such ambitious aspirations, should be cause for raised eyebrows.) Think of all the previous instances: of the daisy chain of reporters and overly optimistic evangelists who blithely walked into their lairs to interview and even "convert" the bandits; of the demand, acceded, for a movie action hero to visit; of kidnappers and their victims holed up in a hospital because of the craving for a Coke; and of police and soldiers who failed to guard the back door of the hospital, thereby allowing said kidnappers to escape...with their victims.
Unfortunately, the farce does not end when the hostages are released. See how it takes a life of its own: Mayor Isnaji, the chief negotiator, is now a suspect; Prof. Dinampo, the guide, once believed to be a suspect, is a apparently not; and though no ransom was paid, the local government apparently allayed the bandits with promises of "livelihood programs." Said promise will have to wait, of course, until Mayor Isnaji comes out of his interrogation with the CIDG.
I'd like to laugh, I really do, but then I think of Fr. Rey Roda, Martin Burnham, and all the other redshirts like you and me. And then it's not so funny anymore.