Teodoro sees ‘smooth sailing’ in Sulu

MANILA, Philippines–Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Monday said he sees “smooth sailing” in efforts to secure the safe release of three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu after talking to Senator Richard Gordon.

Gordon, who is chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, had earlier accused Major General Juancho Sabban, commander of the anti-terrorist Joint Task Force Comet, of sabotaging efforts to negotiate the release of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba by allegedly launching operations against the aid workers’ Abu Sayyaf captors last week.

Sabban is taking a leave of absence to speak at an anti-terrorism conference in Colombia but he and Teodoro said this had nothing to do with the issues Gordon raised.

Teodoro said he talked to Gordon, and they both agreed that it was not the right time to make public certain details of what happened.

“Palagay ko tama na ‘yun [I think that’s enough], and let’s look forward to finding a good solution to the problem. It behooves all of us not to talk about it anymore, we’re just working very sincerely to try [secure the aid workers’] release in cooperation with each other,” Teodoro said in an interview after ceremonies to mark the 112th anniversary of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

“Let’s move forward,” Teodoro said.

Gordon had alleged the clashes in Sulu last week, which the military claimed were triggered by attempts of the kidnappers to break through their cordon, were the reason Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad backed out of an agreement to release one of the hostages.

Teodoro acknowledged the need to investigate the collapse of the negotiations with Parrad.

But he stressed that, if there was a lesson to be learned from last week’s series of events, it is to “increase and [have] closer cooperation between and among all the parties involved” in working for the release of the kidnapped aid workers.

“Very delicate ang situation na yan at kailangan mag-usap-usap na lang kami, tulong-tulong kami, kesa sa magbintangan ngayon [It is a very delicate situation and we need to talk with each other, help each other, rather than blame each other],” he said.

Teodoro said negotiations may still be conducted with Parrad but reiterated that no ransom would be paid for the hostages.

He also stressed that Task Force ICRC, the multi-agency committee tasked to oversee efforts to free the hostages, remains the lead body in addressing the situation.

Katherine Evangelista, INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 7:57 pm  Comments Off on Teodoro sees ‘smooth sailing’ in Sulu  
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