AFP stands by Sabban, Sulu commanders

MANILA, Philippines – The military leadership “trusts” its ground commanders to handle the hostage crisis Sulu, where three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) are being held by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf.

“We put premium on trust. We trust our commanders and we trust their decisions. We stand by all our commanders and Brigadier General Juancho Sabban who was chosen by the crisis committee to make such calls,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

He also said soldiers on the ground always weighed “crucial factors” before acting on a decision.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), earlier accused Sabban, head of the Sulu-based counter-terrorism unit Task Force Comet, of sabotaging efforts for the safe release of one of the three aid workers.

Gordon said that negotiations collapsed due to the firefight soldiers initiated last week against the kidnappers in the jungles of Indanan town, where Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni have been held since being kidnapped on January 15.

Initial reports from the military said Albader Parad, the leader of the kidnappers, and to of his men could have been killed in the encounter.

But a day following the firefight, Parad, who claimed that he was merely wounded, called up Gordon and threatened to behead one of the hostages if the military failed to pull back from the group’s lair. Despite the pullback, no hostage was freed.

“I don’t think our commanders have that kind of attitude because lives are at stake here,” said Torres, adding that the mind of a terrorist was unfathomable.

The Civil Relations Service chief, Brigadier General Gaudencio Pangilinan, also pointed out on Sunday that the government could not bank on the commitment Parad gave to Gordon.

“We are talking to terrorists. Remember, they have a different mindset…whether they make good their commitment or not, we cannot bank on that,” he said in an interview over radio station dzBB.

Jocelyn Uy, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on March 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm  Comments Off on AFP stands by Sabban, Sulu commanders  
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