Arroyo wants swift resolution of ICRC crisis
By Joel Guinto, TJ Burgonio
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 16:37:00 03/26/2009
MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants a “speedy resolution” to the hostage crisis in Sulu province, where three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) volunteers are being held by the Abu Sayyaf, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Thursday.
”She wants a speedy resolution of the case,” Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told reporters in a briefing in Malacañang Thursday a few hours after he met Arroyo at the awarding rites of Metrobank’s The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers.
“But she’s aware of the need for balance…to take care of the welfare and safety of the hostages,” he added.
Teodoro appealed for “patience and understanding” as the crisis dragged for over two months, saying the military and a crisis committee composed of local government officials need to ensure the safety of the hostages while dealing with an “irrational, criminal” group.
He said the government was exhausting all means to ensure the safe release of Filipino Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni, who were seized in Jolo by the Abu Sayyaf in mid-January.
Teodoro also reiterated the government’s no-ransom policy, and that troops would not pull out from Sulu in the face of a threat to behead one of the captives.
Asked if the military was close to securing the hostages, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Alexander Yano, who was with Teodoro, replied: “We cannot exactly say we are nearing the end but as mentioned we have continued to maintain the pressure within the vicinity.”
“We have seen to it that there would be no offensive action on the part of the government troops at this time because we are trying to explore all possibilities of peaceful actions, measures to recover safely the hostages,” he said.
Teodoro said the Abu Sayyaf could release the hostages even without ransom once the communities stop supporting them, which he said, has started to happen because “people are sick and tired of what they’re doing.”
He said it was “very clear” to the crisis committee headed by Sulu Governor Sakur Tan that no ransom should be paid. The same group handled the release of an ABS-CBN television news crew from the Abu Sayyaf in June last year, wherein ransom was allegedly paid.
“It is very clear to the vice governor that no monetary consideration can be had, there is no justification for the past incident,” Teodoro said, referring to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidula, who was photographed while purportedly counting ransom money paid to Indanan town Mayor Alvarez Isnaji and his son, Haider.
The defense chief issued the statement when asked about the photograph.
The Isnajis have been charged with kidnap for ransom for the abduction of the ABS-CBN crew, which was led by news anchor Ces Drilon.
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