Sabban taking 2-week leave

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Brigadier General Juancho Sabban, the commander of operations against Abu Sayyaf bandits holding three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers hostage in Sulu, is taking a two-week leave of absence to attend an anti-terrorism seminar in Colombia.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said on Monday that Sabban’s leave takes effect within the week.

He stressed that Sabban’s leave has nothing to do with accusations hurled against him by Senator Richard Gordon of undermining negotiations with captors of Filipino Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, accused Sabban of initiating firefights with the Abu Sayyaf last week and then prematurely repositioning troops who had encircled the kidnappers, without coordinating with negotiators who, the senator said, were stripped of leverage.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo, who is also the newly appointed spokesman on the Red Cross workers’ kidnapping, said Sabban’s leave starts March 25.

Arevalo said Sabban had accepted the invitation from the Colombian government and the US Southern Command to be keynote speaker at the seminar, which runs from March 28 to April 2, even before the issues raised by Gordon.

In a statement, Sabban said: “I’d like to clarify that I’m still the commander of the [anti-terrorist] Joint Task Force Comet. While I’m in Colombia, Lieutenant General [Nelson] Allaga will supervise the operation [in connection with the] ICRC kidnapping [and] the brigade commanders will directly report to him.”

“I trust my men. They are well trained, motivated and highly committed. They have the capability to handle the situation while I’m away. It would be just a short trip,” he said.

Teodoro said the operations in Sulu will not be affected by Sabban’s absence.

“You know, any operation is not dependent on anyone person and General Sabban is not the authority, it’s the crisis management committee,” Teodoro said.

Asked if it would be healthy for Sabban to go on leave before the issue hurled against him by Gordon has not died down, Teodoro said: “I think so, I think so, because he expressed willingness also to continue with the leave.”

The all-expense-paid trip has been approved by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano, Arevalo said.

Lieutenant General Nelson Allaga, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, has recommended Colonel Eugenio Clemen to be acting commander of Joint Task Force Comet during Sabban’s leave, Arevalo said.

Jocelyn Uy, INQUIRER.net
Katherine Evangelista, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm  Comments Off on Sabban taking 2-week leave  
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