Palace forms task force on Libya kidnappings

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Duterte Cabinet

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

MALACAÑANG ON Tuesday announced that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has formed a “high-level task force” that will secure the release of two Filipinos kidnapped in Libya.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing on Tuesday the task force will be composed of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) Abdullah D. Mama-o, and Mindanao Development Authority Chair Abul Khayr D. Alonto.

According to Mr. Roque, the President expressed regrets, during the Cabinet meeting at the Palace last Monday, over the manner by which the two Filipinos were kidnapped in Libya.

He added: “He has stated previously that he was thinking of sending frigates together with the Koreans to at least send the message that the President takes the plight of the OFWs very seriously.”

“But he has since considered the advice of the Cabinet to first form a task force headed by the Foreign Secretary and composed of Muslim members of the Cabinet including Secretaries Mama-o, Alonto and even Labor Secretary Bello to deal with the hostage crisis in Libya,” Mr. Roque also said.

The problem, Mr. Roque said, “is that the kidnappers are not state agents of Libya; they are militias who are engaged in an armed conflict also with the Libyan government.”

Mr. Duterte’s spokesman added that it is “deemed more prudent to work with the Libyan government to see what the demands are.”

“So, the status right now is that we have formed a high-level all-Cabinet member team to deal with the Libyan government and help in the effort to recover two of our countrymen who were kidnapped together with a South Korean national,” Mr. Roque said.

For his part, Mr. Cayetano said in a press conference Tuesday that “The Filipinos and the Korean who were abducted have good intentions. They wanted to help Libya. They’re part of, if I’m not mistaken, a contract for water in the area.”

He added: “So, there is a high-level team that’s working together now. I can confirm that one of those in the team is Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu because he has wide experience in the Middle East.”