For the ICRC's Sake

Abu Sayaff Won’t Extend Pullout Deadline

By Katherine Evangelista

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The abductors of three Red Cross workers will no longer extend the deadline set for troops to pull out of Sulu, saying they will behead one of three hostages by Tuesday morning, a provincial official said Monday.

“Walang pagbabago, walang extension, pag hindi pa mag-pullout [There are no changes, no extension, if they do not pullout]… baka bukas ng umaga pupugutan na… [by tomorrow morning they will behead one victim],” said Sulu vice governor Lady Ann Sahidulla, who went last month to the hideout of the suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group to check on the status of the three hostages.

The abductors are not bluffing in their threat to behead one hostage, Sahidulla said.

"Sa tingin ko, kasi sanay ‘yang mga ‘yan e, parang wala lang sa kanila ang buhay [I think they are used to this, they no longer value life]," Sahidulla said.

She said kidnappers have not identified who among the three hostages they would behead if the military would fail to accede to their demand.

However, Sahidulla clarified that the Abductors did not ask for a total pullout of the military from the province but merely a pull-out from the towns of Indanan, Patikul, Parang, Maimbung, and Talipao.

“Hindi naman totally pullout lahat ano, hindi naman ‘yun pwede, sobra ‘yun, pasensya na lang talaga [it was not a total pullout, it cannot be allowed, that’s too much, I’m sorry to say],” Sahidulla said.

Sahidulla also denied that the Abu Sayyaf has rejected the agreement to release a hostage once the military has vacated these towns.

“Pag nakita nila [kidnappers] na wala nang military, sila na mismo ang magche-check, sila din ang tatawag kaagad na i-release nila ang isa, tatawag sila kay Governor [Sakur Tan]… actually may schedule na ngayon, na anytime tatawag kaya lang hindi pa totally nag-pullout ang military [If they see that there are no more troops in the area, they will check, and they will immediately release one hostage, they will call the Governor… actually, there is now a schedule that anytime they will call but the military has not totally pulled-out], ” Sahidulla said.

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This ASG people may have lost their respect and value for the lives of people -- maybe also including even their own lives -- but they have not lost their human insticnt of self-preservation. They say they are not afraid to die, yet they want to be sure that their escape route is free from any possible encounter with the governent military. This is what their demand for the government troops' withdrawal from the said areas is all about.

Because they value not life, in time in the future, these bandit-turned group of people shall fall by the sword of their very own people, but now is not yet the time. Therefore, grant them their wish, for their demand is still well within tolerable bounds of negotiation.

For the sake of honoring the countless self-sacrifices of the dedicated volunteerism of all the ICRC workers in the world, let it not be said after this incident that the government fell short of one more possible effort to save the lives of the kidnapped ICRC workers. Those ICRC workers value the lives of our people by persisting on their voluntary works in Mindanao despite the obvious dangers to their lives, now it's time to show them that we also value their lives.

To avoid future crisis in the decision-making process concerning such type of kidnapping as this, maybe it will help if there will be a specific law that will detail the protocols of how to deal with such situation. To be included in the details is the absolute no ransom policy for victims except for a very few high officials of the land. Also to be included in the details is the option to sacrifice the victims when certain conditions occur, because a government who cannot exercise an iron hand against terrorism is a government not worthy of people's respect.