Best Easter gift: Release all kidnap victims PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 21 April 2014 12:58

GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer yesterday asked the assistance of all sectors including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to give kidnap victims their best Easter gift ever: freedom from captivity.

“This year alone, 23 kidnapping cases were recorded in Basilan, Sulu, Zamboanga and Lanao provinces involving around 30 victims,” said the panel chair. “Let us join hands in redeeming them from a most terrible fate of being held hostage.”

“In the last three years, there were nearly 100 cases of abductions of children as young as a year old, students, businessmen, foreigners, journalists, senior citizens, barangay officials, and teachers. Many of these kidnap victims are still in captivity while some have been killed,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

On 11 April 2014, military operations were undertaken in Brgys. Silangkum and Baguindan in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  believed responsible for the recent abduction of a 21-year old female from Zamboanga City. The same bandit group has been extorting money from the contractor building the circumferential road in the province.

MILF-ASG connections

According to AFP reports, nine ASG members were killed during the firefight. Among them was a certain Nur Espital who has been identified as a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Three other alleged MILF members, including a certain Imamul Mande, were wounded.

Said MILF members are connected by affinity to Furuji Indama, the top leader of the ASG and one of the most wanted men in the country, said Coronel-Ferrer, citing reports from the government’s ceasefire mechanisms. Furuji is charged with several cases of murder and kidnappings.

The four casualties affiliated with the MILF  closed ranks with their family members in the ASG during the firefight.

Stop impunity

“As an organization that signed the peace agreement, the MILF must not tolerate the criminal acts of any of their individual members” said Coronel-Ferrer. “They must do their part in arresting the impunity long enjoyed by these unscrupulous individuals.”

Asked what the MILF can do, the government negotiator said that the MILF leadership should ask their supporters who are intricately involved with the ASG to choose between war and peace.

“They should expel from their ranks those who reject peace and are directly or indirectly abetting the hostage-taking and preventing development to set in,” she said. “The peace process should not be used to shield criminals from their accountability for their crimes against innocent civilians.”

Renewed commitment

Tipo-Tipo, Basilan has been the site of many horrendous encounters between government forces and armed groups. Many lives have been lost on all sides. Several infrastructure projects are ongoing in the area but these have been hampered by the volatile situation.

A meeting among the ceasefire bodies and the Ad-Hoc Joint Action Group charged with coordination in criminal interdiction is reportedly scheduled to be held after the Lenten holidays.

“We expect both parties to renew their commitment and to come up with concrete operational guidelines that would allow them to effectively work together in securing the people’s safety and well-being in Basilan and elsewhere in Mindanao,” said Coronel-Ferrer.