Abu Sayyaf denies P50-M ransom demand – report

MANILA, Philippines – The Abu Sayyaf on Thursday belied a published report that it was demanding a P50-million ransom for the freedom of the three International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) workers abducted in Sulu.

A radio report said that Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad was able to contact a local television network where he apparently denied making any ransom demand, contrary to earlier claims by Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.

Parad said his group’s only demand remained the same, which was for the government troops to withdraw their offensives.

At Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) stressed that whether there was a ransom demand or not the government would not allow money to change hands throughout the negotiation process.

“That’s good if they are not demanding any ransom. But Sen. [Richard] Gordon has emphasized that we will not pay any ransom,” said Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service.

Pangilinan challenged the Abu Sayyaf to show its sincerity in the negotiations by releasing at least one or two hostages being held captive in the jungles of Indanan town.

“If ever we will give in to any of their demand, not necessarily pullout of troops, they will have to show sincerity also by releasing at least one or two of the victims. That’s how negotiation works,” Pangilinan said.

Asked who he thought should first be released among the three humanitarian workers, Pangilinan refused to answer, but said, “[Sulu] Gov. [Abdusakur] Tan knows that and he is on that.”

Tan is the chairman of the task force formed to secure the safe release of the ICRC workers.

The AFP said it would be open to the idea of relaxing its cordon on the abductors to allow former Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari to enter the Abu Sayyaf camp to negotiate.

Misuari said he could not enter the bandit group’s lair because the Abu Sayyaf would not talk to him unless the military left the area.

“He was not able to enter and he blamed the military for not being able to enter. We will allow him to enter. If we have to relax a little bit on some of the troop deployment, we will if the Abu Sayyaf will accept him,” said Pangilinan.

Political demands

Apart from rejecting the ransom demand, Gordon – who is also the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross – said the only assistance they could extend to the Abu Sayyaf was to relay the bandit group’s “political demands” to the government.

In a radio interview, Gordon said the last time he spoke with the three hostages was last Wednesday, and they apparently made no mention of any ransom demand.

Abducted by the bandit group in Sulu last Jan. 15 were Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.

“Wala kaming nakukuhang balitang ganyan na nanghihingi ng pera sila… Di naman kayo makakuha ng ransom sa amin wala kaming ibibigay na ransom kahit anong mangyari [We have not received ransom demands but the group would not be getting any money from us anyway],” Gordon said.

Echoing the AFP and Gordon’s views, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told reporters in the Palace that the government would maintain its “no ransom” policy.

Ermita added it would still be best to just await the results of the negotiations between the abductors from the Abu Sayyaf and members of the crisis team committee in Sulu.

While declining to give out further details on the negotiations, Ermita made an assurance that the government was still in control of the situation and doing everything to secure the safe release of the hostages.

“We cannot be dictated upon by the other side. You can be very sure that many things are happening which cannot be revealed but we’re doing something about it,” Ermita said. – GMANews.TV

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Published in: on March 12, 2009 at 8:22 pm  Comments Off on Abu Sayyaf denies P50-M ransom demand – report  
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