PALACE  CONDEMNS  SAYYAF  DEMAND  OF  P50-M  RANSOM FOR ICRC  WORKERS

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MANILA, MARCH 13, 2009 (STAR) Press Secretary Cerge Remonde today condemned as “arrogance of the highest order” the declaration of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group that there are only two ways the government could secure the release of three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): the payment of a P50-million ransom, and through a military rescue operation.

The first condition would presumably lead to the safe release of the kidnap victims even as Abu Sayyaf warned that any attempt to rescue the hostages was fraught with “danger.”

In a radio interview this morning, Remonde assailed the pronouncement of the bandit group, saying it has no place in a civilized society.

He also assured that the “government is on top of the situation, and the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the defense establishment under Secretary (Gilbert) Teodoro are doing their job.”

Remonde was commenting on today’s headline story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the bandit group was demanding a P50-million “cigarette money” in exchange for the freedom of the ICRC workers.

Remonde stressed that the government is sticking to its policy of leaving it to the Local Crisis Management Committee to resolve the matter.

The local crisis management group knows best how to deal with the problem involving the three kidnap victims, he added.

The Abu Sayyaf’s hardline stand on the release of the ICRC workers was revealed by Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema and Abdul Sahim, chairman and secretary-general of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the PDI report said.

Mary Jean Lacaba, a Filipino; Eugenio Vagni, an Italian, and Andreas Notter, a Swiss, were abducted by armed men last Jan. 15.

The trio had just inspected a water supply facility at the Jolo provincial jail when the kidnappers pounced on them.

Remonde reported that the crisis committee is handling “many developments” involving the kidnapping case, “but we cannot reveal this in public right now . . . for the safety of the hostages and for national security reasons.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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