Troops move closer to Abu Sayyaf lair

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Government troops in Sulu were moving back near the Abu Sayyaf lair in Indanan and were ordered to pounce on the bandit group as the deadline set by Albader Parad for the beheading of one of the hostages drew near Tuesday.

Jolo town Mayor Hussin Amin said “life is like hanging in a balance, it’s like the lives of over 800,000 Tausugs as against the lives of three kidnapped victims.”

“We cannot allow this kind of imbalance to stay longer, kailangang matigil na ito [this has to stop],” he said.

Asked to elaborate what he meant by life hanging in a balance, Amin explained that “(the) Abu Sayyaf bandits are demanding to free the entire Sulu province of military and other government forces.”

“What do they want? An anarchy? Does it mean that we need to sacrifice the lives of 800,000 Tausugs moving around with the feeling of security and allow these bandits to run loose and free, that cannot be done,” he said.

Amin admitted that tension has gripped them as the deadline nears.

He said whenever the phone rings, he gets fidgety.

“Baka may biglang tawag [If we get a call] from the governor, we are all ready. “forward lahat, handa na ang lahat ng tropa [we’re moving forward, the troops are ready],” he said.

But he said the details of the redeployment could only be provided by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

An Inquirer informant involved in the ground operations said Gov. Abdusakur Tan might declare a state of emergency anytime.

“Napag-meetingan na yan kanina kasama sina Governor Tan at halos lahat ng municipal mayors sa kapitolyo, hihintayin muna kung ano ang magiging resulta pagkatapos ng alas dos ng hapon, pag walang pugutan, pag-aaralan muli, pero pag napugutan, declare agad ng state of emergency” [We had a meeting with Governor Tan and the municipal mayors at the capitol. But we will be waiting for the outcome after the 2 p.m. deadline, if they don’t behead anyone, we will look into this matter again, but if they do, then we will declare state of emergency],” he said.

Meanwhile, Senator and Philippine National Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon made an appeal to the Abu Sayyaf holding the three workers to release the victims as the imposed deadline for the supposed beheading passed.

There was no word yet, however, on the supposed beheading as of this writing.

In a press conference at the PNRC headquarters, the teary-eyed Gordon appealed to the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, saying they would gain nothing from killing the hostages.

He appealed to Albader Parad to “release the workers.”

“Sila po ay gusto lamang tumulong sa mga kapwa natin…wala silang kasalanan dahil nagsisilbi lang sila [They only wanted to help. They have no fault and they’re just serving you],” he said.

He appealed to the government to practice sobriety when dealing with those holding the three Red Cross workers.

“We will not wait, we will continue. Kung nag-aakala niyo na pag pinatay niyo..we will continue,” Gordon said, when asked what would happen if the beheading pushes through.

Gordon also revealed that he appealed to the military to heed to the third demand of the group, which was to pull out other troops in other Sulu towns.

Gordon said he last spoke with the three workers on March 18.

“The whole family of Red Cross prays for you,” Gordon said, failing to hold back tears.

“I’m sorry. Dapat mas matapang ako sa inyo [I’m supposed to be braver than you]. I know you know how I feel and how I’ve always felt.” Gordon said, when asked what his message was to the three victims.

Gordon said that during the last time he talked with Parad, the bandit expressed determination to stick to his ultimatum for the military to pull out its troops from several villages of Sulu or they would behead one of the hostages.

Gordon described Parad as adamant. “I was in contact with Parad and he said gagawin niya ang gagawin niya (he will do what he said he would do),” Gordon said. It was not clear when Gordon got this statement from Parad.

Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni were kidnapped on Jan. 15 after they had just checked on a water sanitation project inside the Sulu provincial jail.

Abigail Kwok,
Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
Kristine L. Alave, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 3:47 pm  Comments Off on Troops move closer to Abu Sayyaf lair  
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