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No gov’t sanctioned talks for release of TV news team

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By Joel Guinto, Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 09:19:00 06/12/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The government has not sanctioned any negotiations for the release of a television news crew from their alleged Abu Sayyaf captors, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said.

He and Armed Forces Chief Alexander Yano maintained that it was government policy not to negotiate with terrorists.

In a separate interview, Yano said negotiating with terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf, would never be an option for the government.

“We have a no-negotiation policy with terrorists particularly the Abu Sayyaf, so that has never been an option for the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines],” he told reporters in an interview at the Plaza San Luis, where President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led Independence Day rites.

Teodoro said the kidnapping of ABS-CBN’s Ces Drilon, her two cameramen, and a university professor showed that the al Qaeda-linked group had grown “desperate and dangerous” as their numbers dwindled.

“I do not know of any sanctioned negotiations with any abductors for that matter,” Teodoro told reporters at the World War II Veterans Mausoleum at the Manila North Cemetery, where he led flag-raising rites this Independence Day.

Asked if government’s policy barring negotiations with terrorists stands, Teodoro said: “Yes, in so far as I am concerned yes.”

The defense chief said the police had taken the lead role to locate Drilon and her fellow captives, with the military on standby to support police forces when necessary.

“That’s a police matter, we’re just supporting the police on that matter,” he said, adding, “I’m letting [Armed Forces Western Mindanao chief] General Allaga deal with it, when, and as needed by the police.”

Yano said that the military has been talking to local officials in the area. Local officials are among members of a crisis committee, which also includes the military and the police, handling the situation.

Yano said members of the committee also confirmed that Drilon and her crew were still alive.

“I’d rather not go into the details. Suffice to say there is proof of life,” he added.

Asked to confirm that the captives have been transferred from Mt. Tumatangis in Indanan, Sulu to Talipao, Yano said, “That’s good news because if they were transferred then that’s another proof of life.”

On whether the Sulu kidnapping indicated a resurgence of the Abu Sayyaf, which the military claims to have reduced to over 300 fighters at the end of 2007, Teodoro said: “I view it as their getting more desperate, the more, the fewer they become the weaker they become, the more desperate they become.”

“I agree that the more desperate they become the more dangerous they become but we should not be deterred by that and just try to contain them and neutralize them as much as possible,” he said.

Teodoro could not confirm reports that Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah militant Marwan was holding Drilon’s group.

Security officials have reported that Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad snatched the news crew and Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo in Maimbung town on Sunday morning.

Teodoro said it was not “not healthy” at this time to pin the blame on anyone for what happened to the ABS-CBN news team.

But he nonetheless said: “We can reduce the issue to simple rules no, one is to use common sense. The Abu Sayyaf is a known criminal group or gang which does not respect life or limb.”

“Whether you’re a journalist or not, the mere fact that you want to meet or you want to see the Abu Sayyaf is already something that should not be done,” the defense chief said.

Dealing with groups such as the Abu Sayyaf puts journalists’ lives in “extreme peril,” Teodoro warned.

“It’s like sometimes when alligators in the water would open jaws and somebody just walks into it,” he said.

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Written by joelguinto

ThuUTC2008-06-12T03:16:02+00:00UTC06bUTCThu, 12 Jun 2008 03:16:02 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am06

Posted in Uncategorized

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