September 6, 2000, BusinessWorld, Fast Forward: Schilling us softly,
The resounding outrage that initially greeted the abduction of American Jeffrey Craig Schilling is now slowly turning into chilling suspicion. Earlier news account portrayed Schilling as a lovestruck convert to Islam who had fallen for one Ivy Osani, a Muslim student. The two are said to be engaged and are just waiting for the right time to tie the knot until the burly mulatto was purportedly picked up in Zamboanga by Abu Sayyaf elements.
His mother described Schilling as a mere tourist, a claim which hardly inspires belief considering that Schilling has thrice applied for visa extension and has overstayed his visit for six months.
Ordinary prudence should've forewarned him of the dangers of sightseeing for a longer period than what is sufficient, especially in a strife-torn island which was already declared by the US State Department as no-man's-land for Americans. It betrays common sense.
Barely a week after the abduction, Schilling's mom modified her story and told the international press that her son was an idealistic young man who went to Mindanao to "pursue his interest in the region and in Islam."
And it was then that the US embassy in Manila started a background check on Schilling and raised the possibility it could be a case of kidnap-me.
Further inquiry into his fiancee's background revealed the following: Ms. Osani is related by consanguinity to Abu Sayyaf spokesperson Abu Ahmad Sallapudin a.k.a. Abu Sabaya; she was arrested in 1997 with Abu Sayyaf leader Khaddafy Janjalani on suspicion of plotting terrorist activities during the APEC Ministerial conference that year; and that she once was married to a slain member of Abu Sayyaf.
The links of Mr. Schilling and Ms. Osani to the leadership infrastructure of Abu Sayyaf is clear and unmistakable and leaves little interpretation other than that the couple conspired with Abu Sabaya to stage-manage the abduction.
Misgivings were rife that Schilling was being held against his will since the circumstances suggest that he delivered himself to the kidnap-for-ransom ring. This is fueled by Ms. Osani who disclosed that Schilling, on numerous occasions, expressed serious interest in visiting Abu Sayyaf lairs.
The plot thickens with the inconsistencies in the statements made by the Abu Sayyaf regarding the incident. Right after it declared the capture of Schilling, Abu Sabaya accused Schilling of being an agent of the CIA.
This angle failed to convince the media after the latter obtained information that the "accidental tourist" was actually arranging an arms deal for and on behalf of the bandit group.
Without refuting the view, Abu Sabaya instead coughed up a story to reinforce the original yarn that Schilling is a US spy.
The Abu Sayyaf leader said Schilling was in prior contact with the Abu Sayyaf through Ms. Osani who accompanied the American to the terrorist hideout where Schilling even engaged Abu Sayyaf members in religious and ideological debates.
According to Abu Sabaya, Schilling's tete-a-tete with the Abu Sayyaf proved to be his undoing when he failed to practise a customary Islamic ritual. Apparently, that served as the sole basis for branding Schilling a CIA agent.
The more lies and the more plots the Abu Sayyaf contrive, Schilling looks more and more like working in cahoots with the bandits.
And besides, the US State Department has vigorously and repeatedly denied that Schilling moonlights as its spook. Even the body language of US embassy personnel seem to tell us that Schilling is not engaged in intelligence-gathering activity for Uncle Sam.
For crying out loud, it took them quite a while to give a basic backgrounder on Mr. Schilling - uncharacteristic for an embassy which is known to supply or fabricate in advance credible cover stories for operatives who are caught in a bind.
From all these, there is every reason to believe that Jeffrey Schilling, at the very least, is a willing victim of an incident which was of his own making.
Or, he married himself into trouble thinking that he could get something out of sleeping with an enemy.