Aquino orders rescue of Abu Sayyaf hostages
WITH the deadline for the ransom for the Samal hostages of the Abu Sayyaf expired on Monday, security forces were ordered by President Benigno Aquino III to intensify their operations against the bandits in Mindanao.
“President Aquino has directed Acting AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Chief Glorioso Miranda and PNP (Philippine National Police) Chief Ricardo Marquez to conduct appropriate military and law enforcement operations to effect the rescue of the hostages,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement Monday.
Last September 2015, four individuals – two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman – were kidnapped by the bandit group on Samal Island. The Abu Sayyaf later threatened to behead one of the hostages on Monday following military operations against them in Basilan and Sulu.
“Maximum efforts are being exerted by a joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police task group to effect the rescue of four hostages who were kidnapped on Samal Island last October 2015 after the Abu Sayyaf announced the possible beheading of one of its hostages,” police spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said at a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday.
Acting Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and PNP chief Gen. Ricardo Marquez were tasked to conduct appropriate military and law enforcement operations for the rescue of the hostages, he added.
The newly-installed Miranda went to Sulu on Monday morning after staying in Zamboanga City over the weekend, but the military could not immediately say if it has anything to do with the Abu Sayyaf deadline.
Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, military spokesperson, said they have received reports two days ago that the hostages were still alive.
“We have no updates as of the moment and hopefully we get this following reports from our troops in the field,” he said.
Earlier this month, the Abu Sayyaf has revised its demand and set a new deadline. From a ransom of P1 billion each for the hostages, they have lowered their demand to P300 million. The deadline originally set on April 8 was rescheduled for Monday, April 25.
In a two-minute video which circulated several days ago, the hostages – Canadian mining consultant John Ridsdel, fellow Canadian Robert Hall and his girlfriend Marites Flor, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – who claimed that they were held in Sulu said that if the demand was not met, one of them will be executed at 3 p.m. on the said date.
At Malacañang, Coloma said local government units were also asked to coordinate with the joint task group to “ensure the safety of citizens in the affected communities.”
The military, which maintains a no-ransom policy, said it is not aware if any negotiations for ransom payments have been made.