Abu Sayyaf wants to talk with DILG, DND chiefs – Sulu gov

MANILA, Philippines – Al-Qaeda-linked militants holding captive two Red Cross workers had requested to talk with the chiefs of the Interior and Defense departments but were turned down, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said Monday.

In a radio interview, Tan said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro both rejected the request by stressing that the local committee could very well handle the kidnapping crisis.

Tan heads the local crisis management committee. Still being held captive are Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni.

“Si Secretary Puno at tsaka si Secretary Teodoro, gusto nilang [Abu Sayyaf] makausap yung dalawa sa telepono. Sabi ni Secretary Puno, ang sabi ni Secretary Teodoro, local matter na ‘yan,” Tan said in an interview on dzBB radio.

[The Abu Sayyaf wanted to talk to Secretaries Puno and Teodoro, who both said that the negotiations were a local matter.]

Teodoro last Sunday insisted that “no national official” should talk with the Abu Sayyaf for the freedom of the two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) volunteers still being held captive.

The Defense chief’s statement came after Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said that the fate of Notter and Vagni lies in President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s hands.

Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba was released last Thursday.

Gordon said this was because President Arroyo, as the military’s commander-in-chief, could heed the bandits’ demand and order government troops to pull back from the area surrounding the Abu Sayyaf’s camp in Sulu.

Teodoro and Puno had repeatedly insisted that a large-scale military pullout would only endanger the locals in Sulu and could possibly make them more vulnerable to kidnapping not only by the Abu Sayyaf but by other lawless elements operating in the troubled province.

Meddling?

On Sunday, Teodoro said that Gordon may be interfering in the kidnapping crisis and that the senator’s efforts to ensure the hostages’ safety could be considered “destructive” and “could strengthen the Abu Sayyaf’s hand.”

The Defense secretary added that by placing the responsibility solely on the President, Gordon had virtually cleared the Abu Sayyaf of any liability should anything happen to Notter and Vagni.

Gordon, however, lashed back by saying that Teodoro’s remarks were “careless and unfortunate.” He also said that Teodoro’s accusations would not stop him from communicating with the Abu Sayyaf.

“I will not cut off communication with them just to avoid being described as a meddler. At this point, talk is a lifeline in this extremely dangerous situation,” Gordon said.

The senator added that as PNRC chair, he was only carrying out his “personal and institutional responsibility” in keeping the lines open with the bandits, who he said are the ones calling him.

Also on Sunday, Tan, who had declared a state of emergency in Sulu, ordered a crackdown on suspected supporters of the Abu Sayyaf.

“We will continue our crackdown on suspected supporters of the Abu Sayyaf, those who give them aid. We will file charges against them,” he said.

Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

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Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 9:33 am  Comments Off on Abu Sayyaf wants to talk with DILG, DND chiefs – Sulu gov  
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