Arroyo firm against troops pullout in Jolo

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is firm against a pullout of government forces in Jolo Island as demanded by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in exchange for the safety of its three Red Cross workers that it had been holding hostage, a senior Malacañang official said.

Arroyo stood pat on keeping military and police forces in Jolo during a Cabinet meeting at the Palace on Tuesday, Presidential Management Staff Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters.

“What I know is she will never be for the pullout of the troops there and anybody who goes for that and who recommends that, I think, has compromised his position whether he is a lowly governor or a high official,” Esperon said.

Esperon, a former military chief, recalled that during the Dos Palmas kidnappings in 2001, when he was a brigade commander, he tripled the number of brigades on Basilan Island, where the extremists held their hostages, instead of pulling out troops.

“There should be no quarters given to the Abu Sayyaf. It should go the same in Jolo,” Esperon said.

“When you deal with kidnappers, with terrorists, you certainly have to show your strong hand also, but this is not to say that we will altogether disregard the safety of the hostages, there are ways of doing it but never to pullout troops,” he said.

Esperon refused to comment further on the state of emergency declared by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, saying it involved “privileged communication.”

“But I’m sure per the few words I heard from the President today, she really did not want this kind of arrangement, she really did not want it,” Esperon said, referring to the pullout demand.

With the state of emergency declaration, Esperon said troops in Jolo could be increased instead of reduced, like what happened in Basilan in 2001.

Joel Guinto, INQUIRER.net

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Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 5:49 pm  Comments Off on Arroyo firm against troops pullout in Jolo  
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