Now, it’s Sulu gov issuing ultimatum

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Governor Abdusakur Tan of Sulu on Saturday issued an ultimatum to the Abu Sayyaf to release the two remaining workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross that it is holding hostage.

“Better release the hostages immediately otherwise, or else, they know what will happen to them next,” Tan said, without elaborating.

Speaking to the Inquirer by phone from Sulu, where he has been supervising efforts to secure the release of Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni, Tan said he wants the Abu Sayyaf to know that he is now the one making demands.

“I am now the one making the demands against the kidnappers, and my demand is unconditional, as far as I am concerned tapos na yung usapan (the time for talking is over),” he said.

Tan’s ultimatum came after the Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead the two remaining hostages unless the military pulls out of the areas near their lair in Indanan town.

The threat was issued on Friday, shortly after they agreed to release the third ICRC hostage, Filipina engineer Mary Jean Lacaba.

Officials said Lacaba was released without ransom but reports circulating here and in Sulu indicated that money changed hands.

“Ayoko nang magsalita tungkol diyan (I don’t want to talk about it anymore),” Tan said.

But he cited the Sipadan hostage crisis, when hostages were freed after the bandit group got money.

Tan said he will not allow the Abu Sayyaf to cash in on the remaining hostages.

“I have direct contact or communication with the kidnappers and my position is as it is, free the hostages without any ransom dahil I will never, never give ransom to the kidnappers,” he said.

Tan said instead of giving money to the bandits, he would rather spend for the needs of residents, who fled their homes in Talatak in Indanan in anticipation of a major military action against the Abu Sayyaf and those displaced by recent storm surges.

Christopher Lee, Indanan social welfare officer, said about 300 families were also displaced from Barangay Kagay. In Maimbung town, Mayor Najib Maldisa said two barangays were also deserted by residents in anticipation of a major military offensive.

Meanwhile, Tan said the authorities were “inviting” more people for questioning in connection with the Abu Sayyaf activities in Sulu.

He said more arrests should be expected as the crackdown on the supporters of the bandit group continued.

“Around 10 individuals have already been brought to Zamboanga City at titingnan kung may mga malakas na ebidensya. (And we will see if there is strong eveidence against them). They were brought to the prosecutors’ office, so we go by due process,” he said.

Of the 10 suspects, Tan said three were police officers from Indanan and Patikul towns while two were barangay officials of Indanan and Parang.

Two businessmen were also among those brought to this city for questioning, he said.

Lee said he was informed that among the police officers arrested was the brother of a local official.

Tan said he did not care who will be affected by the renewed campaign against the Abu Sayyaf.

“I don’t have any sacred cows. If they committed a sin, I don’t care even if they are politicians. If there is a need to invite them, congressman or barangay officials, then we will invite them,” he said.

Tan said he was not exempted either.

“The irony is nobody has invited me for questioning yet. If I were invited, I can offer a lot of information. Maybe that’s why nobody has invited me yet,” he said.

Tan said the ICRC hostage crisis was being exploited by some politicians, whom he refused to identify.

“They thought I was born yesterday. That was their mistake,” he said.

Julie Alipala, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Published in: on April 4, 2009 at 8:53 pm  Comments Off on Now, it’s Sulu gov issuing ultimatum  
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