AFP: No conspiracy with Abu Sayyaf

MANILA, Philippines – Amid allegations of conspiracy with the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said in a statement Saturday, June 18, men in uniform remain committed to saving hostages and running after criminals.

“We do not doubt the dedication and commitment of our troops. In addition, commanders on the ground are in full control of our troops and are focused on their primary mission of getting these criminals and saving the hostages,” the AFP said via Communications Secretary Hermino “Sonny” Coloma Jr.

On Friday, June 17, the mayor of Jolo Hussin Amin alleged that soldiers are conspiring with the Abu Sayyaf and getting a portion of the ransom collected from the kidnap victims. The Jolo mayor also called on the national government to investigate these military men.

On Monday, June 13, the Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian hostage Robert Hall after the deadline they imposed for ransom payment lapsed. The terrorist group demanded P600 million in ransom for 3 foreign hostages that included John Ridsdel who was also killed in April.

Hall’s girlfriend Marites Flor and Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad remain in captivity. They were abducted in September 2015 from Samal Island.

In a radio interview on dzRB, Coloma said allegations that tend to cast doubt on efforts of the Armed Forces are baseless. The AFP and police have been at the forefront of the fight against “all kidnap-for-ransom groups and the Abu Sayyaf Group for a long time,” Coloma said, reading from the AFP statement.

The AFP, Coloma added, has adopted and established a system to protect its ranks from spies and traitors. “There also exist strong measures to deal with those who have found to have violated their oath.”

The accusation against the AFP “can undermine government efforts against these criminals,” the statement said.

As if addressing Hussin, the same statement said, “Local government officials are at the lead of addressing peace and order in their community with the police and the AFP as partners. This cooperation and partnership is the cornerstone in coming up with a permanent solution to this perennial problem of lawlessness in their communities.” 

Furthermore, the AFP said local officials “should also come up with socio-economic plans that can help the citizens veer away from supporting these crime groups when they share the money received from kidnapping. After all, peace and order is their primary responsibility in their respective provinces.”

Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group is still holding more than 20 abducted foreigners, one of them a Dutch bird-watcher kidnapped 4 years ago. In 2014, the group claimed it had been paid more than $5 million for the release of a German couple. – Rappler.com