While MPC condemns the kidnapping of Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, all humanitarian workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), we express deep concern for their safety, especially with the ASG’s 24-hour ultimatum for the government to pull back its forces, auxiliary troops, and civilian volunteers near the bandits’ hiding grounds.
The withdrawal of Philippines Marines last week to give way to the release of one kidnap victim was a wise decision but, as we stress further, giving in is not a quick formula in confronting the radical fanaticism of the Abu Sayyaf Group
As we call for closer coordination between national officials and the local crisis committee led by Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan for the safe release of the hostages, we also reiterate that government needs to rethink their heavy presence in all towns in the province.
We also call on the government to work for the unconditional release of Sri Lankan Umar Jaleel, a civilian peacekeeper working for Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) in Mindanao, who was abducted last February 13, 2009. It has been 47 days since he was kidnapped in Basilan but there has been no progress on his safe release. We therefore call on the government to conduct equal treatment and attention on the kidnap victims in Basilan and Sulu.
Even before this recent kidnapping and abductions in the past, local residents have been clamoring for the pullback of military forces especially in civilian-populated communities. The urgency of this demand by the local communities was even manifested in a resolution passed during the International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao held in Davao City on 16-17 March, 2009 wherein the international peace advocates as well as their counterparts in Mindanao urged the government as well as rebel groups to draw out armed personnel from civilian communities.
But still pulling back is not enough. There should be contingent plans parallel to the withdrawal that must be in place even prior to the pull out and not to wait in vain until another deadline is given.
We call for greater sensitivity on this case as we join peace-loving individuals and organizations in their protests against the kidnapping which was purely un-Islamic and inhuman. We also appeal to the Abu Sayyaf to respect and uphold the human rights of the ICRC and NP workers as we invoke that justice must be served to whom it is due. We appeal for greater time in conducting negotiations in order to diffuse the clear and present danger of beheading of one of ICRC staff.
We also urge authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on persistent reports of alleged collaboration among ASG forces and some me
n in uniform in the locality.
While the Local Crisis Committee is bent on resolving this volatile and very complex situation, we also ask everyone to pray and spend a moment of silence for the safety of the three kidnap victims as well as the general welfare of the people of Sulu.
For details contact:
RICK R. FLORES
Mindanao Peoples Caucus