Best Easter gift freedom for all kidnap victims – gov’t peace panel chair

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 April) – The best Easter gift would be to see all kidnap victims in the South who were believed seized by Abu Sayyaf bandits released, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said.

In a statement, Ferrer asked “all sectors including the MILF” to help secure the victims’ release.

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

She further said that the nearly 100 kidnap victims in the last three years included children as young as a year old, as well as students, businessmen, foreigners, journalists, senior citizens, barangay officials, and teachers.

“Many of these kidnap victims are still in captivity while some have been killed,” Ferrer said.

The chief government peace negotiator cited AFP reports that during the military operation on April 11, one of the alleged kidnappers killed was Nur Espital, said to be member of the MILF.

Three other alleged MILF members, including a certain Imamul Mande, were wounded, she added.

Said MILF members are relatives of Furuji Indama, reportedly a ranking Abu Sayyaf leader who is facing several cases of murder and kidnappings, Ferrer said, adding they joined the kidnappers during the firefight with government forces.

She said the MILF, as signatory to a peace agreement, “must not tolerate the criminal acts of any of their individual members” and “do their part in arresting the impunity long enjoyed by these unscrupulous individuals.”

She stressed that MILF supporters who are involved with the Abu Sayyaf must be made “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.” (MindaNews)