MANILA, Philippines – Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo believes Jordanian journalist Baker Abdullah Atyani is still with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) but not kidnapped, and he wants him deported once he resurfaces.
They are “safe and not threatened” by the ASG, he noted.
Robredo explained that the government hopes that the 3 re-appear soon, but once that happens, he will recommend to the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration that the Jordanian be deported and banned from entering the Philippines in the future.
“If you imperil yourself and create problems for us, I think you should not be allowed in the country again,” said the DILG chief in Davao.
Robredo reiterated that Atyani went to Sulu to interview the Abu Sayyaf leadership without informing the authorities and refusing their offers to provide him security in the province.
The official insisted that his recommendation is for the Jordanian’s “own security.”
Robredo added that the government is also concerned about Atyani’s two Filipino companions, who joined him on trip to make a documentary he described as a “Mission Impossible type”.
President Benigno Aquino III, who was also in Davao Wednesday, said he is inclined to side with Robredo on this issue, but stressed the journalist has to be given the chance to explain his side. “…nararapat lang din na bigyan siya ng pagkakataon na ipaliwanag ang nangyari. He should address the issue of why he put many people in danger,” the President said.
No rescue mission
Despite reports that the military has deployed an elite team of soldiers to locate the TV crew, Robredo insisted that there will be no search and rescue mission after establishing “contact” with Atyani.
Robredo did not specify who the Jordanian had been in contact with.
A Sulu-based Catholic priest, who refused to be named, said that it was the ASG that invited Atyani to Sulu, not the other way around.
“The Abu Sayyaf has been inviting media correspondents to Sulu and I believe this is because they want to revive their influence and power,” he said.
Atyani and his Filipino crew members, Ramel Vela and Rolando Letrero, arrived in Sulu on Monday, June 11, on board a 10 a.m. Air Philippines flight, Sulu police chief Senior Supt Antonio Freyra told Rappler.
Freyra was not on the island when the Jordanian arrived, but he was told the Al-Arabiya correspondent coordinated with Governor Sakur Tan’s public information officer Sonny Abing.
Abing set up a 30-minute interview with Tan, who offered Atyani his own car to drive them around the island and for the team to stay at the Peacekeeper’s Hotel near Camp Asturias, but the journalist declined as the camp is surrounded by uniformed policemen.
Atyani, Vela and Letrero stayed instead at the Sulu State College Hostel in Jolo, where all 3 registered with their real names and Atyani took room #8 while the Filipinos slept in room #13.
In the late afternoon of the same day, the Jordanian interviewed Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin, and his guides were Abing and a local reporter who works for a foreign news agency.
According to Freyra, this journalist was not the same person who arranged the meeting with the ASG in Patikul on Tuesday, 12 June.
Manila-based journalist Julmunir Jannaral, who also assisted Atyani with other interviews in Mindanao, said the Jordanian hired his fellow crew members from a production house in Manila and that neither of them is a professional journalist.- with additional reports from Amir Mawallil in Zamboanga City and Karlos Manlupig in Davao