EXECUTIVE Secretary Eduardo Ermita yesterday appealed anew to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to release the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers whom the group still hold hostage since they kidnapped them last January 15, 2009.
In his regular Wednesday press briefing in Malacañang, Ermita said the Abu Sayyaf, led by Albader Parad, should free their hostages Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba because the Red Cross volunteers are just doing their jobs, including helping poor Muslims.
If they are truly a militant group who believe in Allah, they should know human compassion, he told reporters.
Parad and his group have threatened to behead one of their three hostages earlier unless the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) pull out its troops from the ASG’s immediate vicinity.
The AFP bent backward and obliged but the bandits did not honor their promise to release one hostage.
The terrorists instead set a “2 p.m. deadline” Tuesday but authorities stood pat even as they intensified their efforts to convince the terrorists to release their captives.
The latest update as of noon Wednesday indicates all the three captives are still alive.
Ermita stressed that the hostage crisis committee under Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo S. Puno and Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan, remain in active negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists to ensure the lives of the ICRC hostages.
Tan has declared a state of emergency in Sulu but Ermita said the government, per orders by President Gloria Arroyo, is doing everything to resolve the hostage crisis the soonest possible time.
“The President always sees to it that every situation is handled properly, and negotiation is still the primary effort,” Ermita stressed.
Based on the latest reports, the Abu Sayyaf has not contacted anyone yet to confirm whether their three hostages are still alive.
Ermita also said there is no need for United States troops to interfere with the Sulu crisis situation, adding that the issue is an internal matter which Filipinos can handle by themselves.
The AFP troops who were partially pulled out from where the ASG bandis are, have been ordered anew to hunt the terrorists, jointly with police operatives to rescue the hostages and capture Parad.
In a related development, Sen. Richard Gordon, who also chairs the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said he has not received any proof of life from the Abu Sayyaf to indicate that the kidnapped ICRC workers are still alive. Philippine News Agency