RP Government: Loosening the Cordon

by Caela

Troops will withdraw from a jungle area on the southern island of Jolo as demanded by the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, which has threatened to behead one of three Red Cross hostages, Secretary Puno said Saturday.

Troops will withdraw from the southern island of Jolo as demanded by the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, which has threatened to behead one of three Red Cross hostages, Secretary Puno said Saturday.

Two months ago, three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross were kidnapped by the Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Abu Sayaff. Since then, the Philippine Government had been adamant that it will not give in to the group’s demands.

Last week, the Philippine government and the local Red Cross branch rowed in public on Sunday after bandits failed to release one of three aid workers held hostage as they earlier promised. The [President Gloria] Macapagal-Arroyo Administration has a strict “No Ransom” Policy and the palace said that they are “leaving this matter to the local crisis committee and with the full support of the (military) and the (police).” The Philippine National Red Cross chairman retorted that he was “compelled to intervene because the lives of our colleagues (had) been put in clear and present danger when the military troops irresponsibly attacked their captors’ lair. In fact, we were able to stop their executions.”

MANILA, Philippines (ABS-CBN) – The Philippine Government about 800 police and militiamen out of a cordon surrounding kidnappers holding three Red Cross workers on a remote southern island on Saturday, partially giving in to the Islamist militants’ demands.

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno told reporters the government had made a “difficult” decision to abandon positions that would allow the Abu Sayyaf rebels access to the island’s coastline, but kept about 1,500 other troops posted along an inland highway.

Puno had said on Friday that the government would not give in to the rebels’ demand to pull back from positions on remote Jolo island. The Red Cross staff have been held for over two months.

“We are taking risks,” Puno said after meeting security officials at the southern port city of Zamboanga. Other officials said the navy would patrol the waters off Jolo but the cordon would not be as tight.

Officials said Puno was hoping the partial agreement to the rebel demand would allow for fresh negotiations for the release of the three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba.

They were kidnaped on Jan. 15 after inspecting a prison on Jolo and are being held by an estimated 100 heavily armed rebels in a 5 sq km area in the island’s rugged jungles.

“We are giving them a breathing space where they feel they’re safe to negotiate,” Puno said. “It’s a difficult decision and not all agreed to the decision.”

The about-turn came after ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger spoke to Philippines Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and asked him to ensure that the authorities do everything in their power to save the hostages.

“The ICRC’s priority is that Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas remain safe and that they be able to return to their families, who miss them desperately,” Kellenberger said in a statement on the ICRC website (www.icrc.org).

Exit Question: When time and time again the Abu Sayaff had proven that they don’t usually fulfill their end of a bargain, will the Philippine Government’s move to loosen the cordon really help in securing the release of the members of the Red Cross or will it send the wrong signals to the most radical Islamic militant group in the Philippines?

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Comments
4 Responses to “RP Government: Loosening the Cordon”
  1. Alonso says:

    We dont have any recourse but to warn them. If
    something happens to the Hostages. We will not
    take Prisoners. We will behead you also infront
    of TV cameras. Like you did to your victims.

  2. C. Martel says:

    There is nothing to do but to tighten the nose
    of the encirclement. If they cut the heads of
    the hostages. We will also cut their heads.
    If they bomb people. We have also to bomb their
    houses. Israel has been doing this kind of warfare
    for 50 years. The terrorists cannot even win a
    war.

    • Caela says:

      Mr. Martel,

      An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, so the saying goes. I believe one cannot begrudge a country for defending itself but it doesn’t always have to be that way. In Mindanao, we must remember that even though they are terrorists, they are still Filipinos. Israel is quite different from the Philippines. No one is denying the right of the Philippines to exist that is why it is essential to understand what they are fighting for and react accordingly. If their goal is to simply cause terror and spread hate between Muslims and Christians, then maybe the response should be with equal, if not greater, force.

  3. tauhid says:

    Abu sayyaf group not bandit
    they defense their land
    they have bravery, not like philippines
    who only as the dog of american and western countries, and you get money.
    philippine will never able win the war…
    trust me

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