AS MALACAÑANG on Friday said authorities have been directed to rescue three hostages, one from Malaysia and two from Indonesia, being held by the Abu Sayyaf (a Philippine-based fundamentalist Islamic group), it reiterated that the government has a policy against paying ransom.
“We are doing our best to secure the release of hostages from the evil hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) but we stand firm on our no ransom policy,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.
Mr. Panelo added that “to give in to the demands of terrorists and other lawless groups would embolden them to engage in more abductions that would allow them to conduct extremist and other criminal activities as they could buy more arms and weapons.”
He said that the ASG “continues to be on the run” as a result of the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to the military “to crush them.”
“Our security forces are hunting them in the wild forests of Mindanao to unleash their might and blow them to kingdom come,” said the spokesman.
Early this month, at least five members of the ASG surrendered to authorities. They are believed to be behind the bombing of a Catholic church in Jolo, where 23 persons died and 95 others were wounded.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said the suspects belong to a group of 22 Abu Sayyafs led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan.
Mr. Duterte declared an “all-out war” against the ASG and other enemies of the state last month following the attacks in Jolo.
In a press briefing on Jan. 29, Mr. Panelo said, “When you say against the ‘enemies of the state,’ [we refer to] those who use violence against the state. Those who want to destroy the democratic institutions of this country.
“Those who kill, who sow terror, who bomb civilians, soldiers, and policemen. These are the enemies of the state that the President is referring to, not the critics,” he clarified. — Arjay L. Balinbin