MANILA, Philippines—Abu Sayyaf kidnappers dumped Gabriel Canizares’ severed head stuffed in his own backpack outside a gasoline station in Jolo town before dawn Monday, authorities said.
The body of Canizares, 36, a school teacher who was seized on Oct. 19 on Jolo Island, was found separately five hours later near the main gate of the 3rd Marine Brigade in Patikul town, two kilometers away.
“The kidnappers had demanded a P2-million ransom for Canizares, but his family and friends could raise only P150,000,” said Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.
“The demand could not be met,” Dolorfino said.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the military and police to put an end to the Abu Sayyaf’s “heinous and inhumane atrocities,” according to her spokesperson, Lorelei Fajardo.
“We shall make them pay for the enormity of this savagery,” Fajardo said.
Canizares had been a teacher for 10 years. The lone non-Muslim teacher in Kanagi Elementary School in Patikul was recently appointed its head teacher.
But because he had been receiving threats, Canizares had asked to be transferred to the division office in Jolo, said his supervisor Eufremio Canaria.
Canizares had gone back to check the situation in Patikul when he was seized in a jeep with his fellow teachers, police said.
Caught off guard
“We were caught off guard. We thought Patikul is peaceful given that a big chunk of the US government support poured in the said town. The school where Canizares taught is a recipient of US AID’s programs and projects,” Canaria said.
Witnesses told authorities that the backpack containing the head of Canizares was thrown by one of two men riding tandem on a motorcycle.
Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa said the arrest on Saturday of Asnawie Addan Salah, a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), could have led to the beheading of Canizares.
“The timing of those two events is very significant,” Verzosa said in a phone interview.
Salah was nabbed on Saturday afternoon at the Zamboanga International Airport for his alleged involvement in the grisly beheading of 10 Marines in Alabarka, Basilan, in 2007.
Canizares’ kidnappers were led by a certain Abu Tarik and Basaron who, Verzosa said, were known to “share their men” with Salah’s MILF unit.
MILF-Abu Sayyaf operation
The Abu Sayyaf commanders, he said, were relatives of another notorious leader of the bandits, Radullan Sahiron.
“The armed men who ambushed the Marine troopers were affiliated with both the MILF and Abu Sayyaf. In a recent encounter in Basilan with the military, they again helped one another,” Verzosa said. “Some of them were members of the same clan.”
Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said Canizares was a “great loss to efforts to improve the quality of education of our children in the area.”
Domingo Alidon, president of the Department of Education employees’ union, urged the government to stop negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf. Since the start of this year, the bandits had abducted six teachers who were eventually released.
“We are calling on the President to act on this matter,” Alidon said. “They are not rebels. They are bandits. Government should just crush them.”
Gov’t record ‘abysmal’
Antonio Tino, chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, expressed shock and outrage. He said the murder of Canizares showed the administration’s “abysmal record” in protecting teachers in Mindanao.
Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. urged Sulu residents to take the defense of their communities seriously into their own hands.
“They should also have an uncompromising attitude against these terrorists,” Teodoro told reporters on the sidelines of the Department of National Defense’s 70th anniversary at Camp Aguinaldo Monday.
Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo, a former kidnap victim, said that “the government, other than lip service, didn’t do anything substantial to save Canizares, maybe because he is just a mere elementary school head teacher.”
Dolorfino dismissed the suggestion, saying that troops on the ground did everything they could.
“We cannot just make public our own efforts so as not to jeopardize the safety of the victim,” he said. With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy, Marlon Ramos, Philip C. Tubeza, Christian V. Esguerra in Manila; Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao; and Associated Press