Gov’t rejects demand of Red Cross kidnappers

The government will not bow to the demand of the Abu Sayyaf unit holding three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to reposition its security forces in Sulu.

“I think you will understand why it is impossible for us to accede to the demands of the kidnappers now,” said Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno in a press conference on Friday.

Puno assured that the government will not abandon its responsibilities to the province of Sulu.

“We will not surrender the entire province to the capricious demands of a few kidnappers. As much as our heart bleeds for the situation that the hostages are experiencing now, we believe that the situation will be worse, not just in our country but everywhere in the world where terrorists will be allowed to dictate upon governments what they should and should not do with respect to the welfare of their citizens,” Puno said.

Puno said repositioning the marines, police and civilian emergency forces would place more civilians in further danger.

“If we do this, everybody outside this area becomes a potential kidnap victim, every car, truck that traverses this road becomes a potential hijack or robbery victim. Peace and order will not function. Government will not function in any of these places. It is not unreasonable to assume that there will be serious evacuation on the part of people who will fear this violent group will take over their areas,” Puno said in a press conference Friday.

While serious casualties from all sides have been reported, Puno clarified that the government was not the one who initiated it.

“Our military has suffered. Civilians have suffered, and understandably, some of the kidnappers have also suffered casualties. But this is not our doing. This is not something that was initiated by this government,” he said.

Puno appealed to the captors of ICRC workers Andreas Notter, Eugenio Vagni and Marie Jean Lacaba to be reasonable, to have respect for human life, and to value the many contributions made by ICRC workers not just in the Philippines but in the entire world.

ICRC appeal

On Thursday, the ICRC appealed to the Philippine government to “consider the kidnappers’ demands” and “refrain from further military operations” that could jeopardize the safety of three ICRC workers held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Alain Aeschlimann, ICRC head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, reiterated their call to the Philippine government to “do everything in their power to save the lives of the hostages and not take any action” that could put their colleagues at risk, specifically by refraining from further military action.

The DILG called the kidnappers’ actions as unreasonable and unacceptable by any government.

“No one can countenance the surrender of the safety of an entire province of so many inhabitants of peace-loving people to a violent group that intends to accomplish its objectives by murdering innocent civilians,” he said.

Despite this, Puno said the government is still willing to push through with the negotiations.

“We are willing to reason with them, to listen to any legitimate fears that they may have about any offensives by the military, by the police, by the civilian emergency forces,” he said.

Puno added that “the military has not been the aggressor in this exercise.”

“The military, today, are not the aggressors. In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are back in their camps, the chief-of-staff has direct instructions not to engage in any offensive activity. The same instructions have been given by Gov. Sakur Tan to both the Philippine National Police and the civilian emergency forces in his province.”

The government wants to explore further avenues and continue negotiations and discussions with the kidnappers in the hopes of coming up with “something that is possible.”

“We would like to repeat that we are willing to consider any reasonable demand that will result in an improvement in the climate of confidence that will exist in the province of Sulu, and hopefully lead to a peaceful solution of this kidnapping situation. But we are duty-bound by the constitution and by the love that we have for the people of Sulu to make sure that we do not abandon them to the uncertain faith that awaits them if government retreats from all its obligations of protecting the communities in the area,” he said.

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm  Comments Off on Gov’t rejects demand of Red Cross kidnappers  
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