Military handling of kidnapping irks Gordon

MANILA, Philippines—Is it a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth?

Sen. Richard Gordon Sunday said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be held accountable if any of the three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is killed.

Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), issued a statement strongly critical of the military handling of the 2-month-old hostage crisis amid fading hopes that the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers will keep a promise to him to free at least one hostage.

“I shall hold the President and her minions responsible if any one of our three colleagues is killed in any irresponsible attempt to rescue them,” Gordon said, accusing the military of ignoring his request to reposition troops so that a turnover could take place.

The deal followed Gordon’s telephone conversation on Thursday with the leader of the kidnappers, Albader Parad, that averted a threat to behead the hostages after the military launched a rescue attempt last week.

Gordon said that the military had ignored his request to reposition troops and instead pulled out even before arrangements for a hostage handover could take place.

Three Marines and two kidnappers were killed and 19 soldiers were wounded in last week’s clashes in the Indanan forest on Jolo Island where Swiss Andreas Notter, 38, Italian Eugenio Vagni, 62, and Filipino Mary Jane Lacaba, 37, were kidnapped on Jan. 15.

Stepping into the impasse, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon called on Ms Arroyo to outline to troops involved in the hostage crisis the chain of command and the orders that should be carried out to secure the release of the hostages.

“The President must define clearly the chain of command from whom ground commanders should receive their orders and secondly and more importantly, she must define clearly the orders that the ground commanders would carry out,” he said.

Biazon, a retired chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said in a telephone interview he wanted to know who was the civilian authority in charge because he said he knew it to be Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan, head of the crisis committee.

Meddling politicians

“Why is now Senator Gordon making direct contact with the military and the terrorists?” he asked.

Biazon said that when he was still in the military, he had been confronted with the problem of “politicians meddling in what I have to do.”

He warned that the current situation could result in “dire consequences for the hostages.”

“To blame the ground commander for the death of the three Marine soldiers last week is unfair,” Biazon said, referring to Gordon’s claim that Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, the military commander in the area, was sabotaging the negotiations.

Gordon told dzBB radio that he came into the picture when the threats were made to kill the hostages.

“That is the time I really went to high gear and started talking. It is the government’s job, but who else is doing it. Nobody is talking with them,” Gordon said of the Abu Sayyaf. “I’m trying to save lives.”

He said he got upset because Sabban ordered the withdrawal of the troops and thus prevented the release of one hostage.

“All I’m saying is we have to get our acts together,” he said.

AFP standing by troops

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr., AFP spokesperson, said Sunday that the military was standing by its soldiers dealing with the hostage crisis.

“We put premium on trust. We trust our commanders and we trust their decisions,” he said.

Torres said Sabban had been “chosen by the crisis committee to make such calls.”

Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, AFP Civil Relations Service chief, also pointed out 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,” Pangilinan said in an interview over dzBB.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the government respected Gordon’s admission that he had been betrayed by the kidnappers.

“That’s why in cases like these it’s better to leave it to government policy, which is leaving this matter to the local crisis committee and with the full support of the (military) and the (police),” Remonde told reporters.

Christine Avendaño, Philippine Daily Inquirer
With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy and Agence France-Presse

Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments Off on Military handling of kidnapping irks Gordon  
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