The Palace stood firm on a “no ransom policy” even as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) threatened to behead its Malaysian and Indonesian hostages abducted in Mindanao last December even as the government undertakes earnest rescue efforts.
“To give in to 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,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
The official was reacting to an online video posted last 14 February by the bandits threatening to execute their captives.
In the said video, two of the hostages were being held at knife-point with their faces covered. One of them was shown appealing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for help.
According to various reports, the two hostages seen in the video were believed to be Indonesians Heri Ardiansyah, 19, and Hariadin, 45.
Panelo gave an assurance the government’s security forces are exerting efforts to track down the perpetrators and rescue their victims.
Rescue bid ongoing
“We are doing our best to secure the release of hostages from the evil hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group,” he stressed.
“The ASG continues to be on the run as a result of the order of the President 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,” the spokesman said.
Suppressing the terror group and rendering them helpless are one of President Duterte’s main priorities.
He recently ordered the deployment of an entire division of the Philippine Army (PA) in Sulu to flush out the bandits from Mindanao.
Government forces have stepped up their offensive against the Abu Sayyaf as they aim to eradicate all of their suspected lairs in the region.
Earlier this month, the President had branded the ASG as a group that is “insane” with “no soul” and “made in hell.”
Malaysian also captive
The two Indonesians were kidnapped together with Malaysian hostage Jari Abdulla, 24, from their Sandakan-based fishing trawler in eastern Sabah waters close to Tawi-Tawi on 5 December 2018, The Straits Times reported.
In the video, members of the Abu Sayyaf Group even spoke in Bahasa Malaysia while showing the Indonesian hostages. The Malaysian hostage was not with the duo.
The ASG has terrorized the Mindanao region and other areas with a trail of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings since the 1990s.
Authorities recently tagged the Islamic State-inspired extremist group in the twin bombings that tore through a Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on 27 January, killing 23 people and wounding some 100 others.
With Elmer N. Manuel