New govt emissary in ICRC hostage crisis

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Monday said the government tapped a new emissary to help secure the release of the two remaining Red Cross workers still being held by a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.

But Press Secretary Cerge Remonde declined to identify the new negotiator, citing issues of national security.

“I would like to ask for your forgiveness (that) I cannot say that for purposes of national security (and) so there will be a chance for the negotiations to succeed,” he told reporters.

“Suffice it to say that (having a new emissary) is further proof that our local crisis committee is doing its best to secure the safe release of the hostages.”

Remonde said the emissary was known to the group of Abu leader Albader Parad because “otherwise they will not negotiate with him.”

Despite naming a new emissary, Malacañang made it clear that all actions pertaining to seeking the release of the Red Cross captives should be cleared with the local crisis management committee headed by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.

“The governor and officials of Sulu definitely know the situation in Sulu better than any armchair expert based here in Manila,” Remonde said.

“It’s only right and practical that we leave these things to the local officials for as long as they have the full and total support of the national government, especially the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.”

At the same time, Malacañang asked Senator Richard Gordon to be “more circumspect” in his words and actions in trying to help secure the release of Swiss Andreas Notter, 38, and Italian Eugenio Vagni, 62.

The third hostage, Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, was released last Thursday.

Gordon, also the head of the Philippine National Red Cross, warned that the fate of Notter and Vagni was in the hands of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He said Parad’s group had a standing demand for government troops to pull back from areas surrounding the bandits’ camp.

“I still would like to believe that Senator Gordon is acting and speaking on the basis of the best of intentions and motivations, he being a senator of the Republic and the head of the Red Cross,” Remonde said.

“But as we say, oftentimes, the road to perdition is filled with good intentions. So even if we have good intentions, let’s be more circumspect (and determine) if we are helping or not.”

In the bid to pressure the kidnappers, Tan last week declared a state of emergency in his province, a situation that has been taking a toll on Sulu’s poor residents.

Remonde assured residents that both the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Disaster Coordinating Council would take care of them.

“You cannot blame anyone but these bad elements within your midst,” he said, addressing the residents.

Christian V. Esguerra, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Published in: on April 6, 2009 at 5:40 pm  Comments Off on New govt emissary in ICRC hostage crisis  
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