Aquino: Expect suppression of Abu Sayyaf in 'following days'
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III would not divulge details, but asked about how the government is dealing with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, he said there will be “developments” in the next few weeks.
“You will see very significant accomplishments as far as the suppressing the Abu Sayyaf is concerned," Aquino said on Wednesday, October 22.
"I am just trying to stop myself because I might be revealing ongoing operations and warned them that, you know, ‘They are about to catch you,’ ‘You’d better leave.’ So let me cut myself short there."
Aquino refused to give a deadline but later added, “I’m so tempted to tell you what to expect in the following days, but I think I will be compromising and putting at risk people undertaking my orders. Please await developments. They will be self-evident.”
Ransom 'not our call'
Aquino made the statements just days after two German hostages were released by the terrorist group, after they claimed that their demand of a P250-million ($5.6-million)* ransom was met.
The President emphasized the ransom money did not come from the Office of the President. When asked if he knew where the money came from or if ransom was indeed paid, Aquino skirted the issue, saying media should ask the German side who was negotiating with the rebels.
He also said other countries paying ransom, even in Philippine shores, is their right.
“It’s a Philippine government policy that we don’t negotiate with terrorists and we don’t pay ransom. Other governments, if they do so, it’s not our call. They have sovereign rights, they have directions, they have their policies,” he said.
Aquino admitted that paying ransom money would worsen the problem for Filipinos, however, but he also said he wanted to make sure the Philippines accommodates the need of other nations.
“We mentioned that also to them, if they choose this route, that produces a bigger problem for us. But having said that, we as a people look at our visitors as guests,” he said.
“While they are our guests, they are being treated this way which is so [opposite] of our cultural psyche as a people and we want to be able to say we cooperated fully with all these other governments to ensure the safety of their citizens, which I think is our responsibility as a host.”
No ISIS threat
He gave assurances, though, that the hostages the Abu Sayyaf are currently holding – at least 10 – are not in imminent danger, according to his intelligence sources. He also said inteligence services told him that terrorists around the area "who were branded with another brand previously are rebranding themselves," but this did not mean they are looking to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
"So, in fact, the report from that foreign intelligence service says our terrorist are opportunists who are trying to capitalize on the notoriety of ISIS at this time," he said.
The President said the government continues to focus on how it can address the Abu Sayyaf, saying the government is employing both a “military” and “development” approach.
"Put an end to the group? Unless you address the root causes where people, you know, do not say anything into the system, where they do not buy into the system, where they’re condemned to poverty and a life of destitution. In that...you’ll never solve it. So, it’s two pronged. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) are present," he said.
“We will try to change the status quo to get them to buy into the system and be partners in development rather than people who stifle the development activities in the area." – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P44.75