Inside out

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Gordon: Kidnapped ICRC workers ‘well’

Posted by Abi Kwok on January 26, 2009

Abductors still in Sulu–PNP chief

By Abigail Kwok, Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross kidnapped in Sulu are “well” and no ransom has been demanded by their captors, Senator Richard Gordon said on Monday.

Also on Monday, Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Jesus Verzosa said the kidnappers of the aid workers are still in Sulu but are hard to locate because they are constantly on the move.

Gordon said he had spoken with Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Jean Lacaba over the weekend and they all “seemed well.”

“I’ve been working over the whole weekend and the last several days on this issue [kidnapping]. We’ve been talking with these people, with our associates [and] they seemed to be well,” he said at a press conference.

“In fact, I’ve spoken to them over the weekend [and] they are well. But we are not negotiating. We’re not giving any ransom and no ransom has been demanded,” he said.

It has been almost two weeks since the three aid workers were seized by gunmen in Patikul town but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the abduction. Authorities, however, are blaming a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group.

“It’s the normal move of any kidnap group to [be mobile] to avoid detection. We have yet to trace their exact location,” Verzosa said in an interview after the flag ceremony at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Verzosa refused to disclose further information on the kidnapping, but stressed that the PNP is working closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to recover the victims safely.

“Our anti-kidnap operations there are continuing. We are [undertaking] efforts as in other kidnap-for-ransom situations and the operational matters should not be discussed because we want to ensure…our primary concern [which] is the safety of [the] hostages,” he said.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the National Police Commission (Napolcom) is considering a review of the firearms policy to address the kidnappings in Mindanao.

“In the National Police Commission, we are really thinking of reviewing the whole policy of firearms, not just in Mindanao but in the entire country. We have to inventory what’s out there and then try to assess whether it is better to change direction on some of these things,” he said.

But Puno, who is also Napolcom chairman, admitted that implementing a total gun ban in some parts of Mindanao will be difficult because of “legitimate security concerns” there.

Earlier, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said he was considering a total gun ban as a “logical solution” to the kidnappings in Mindanao.

But Puno said: “In Mindanao it is very difficult to implement a total gun ban because there are many legitimate security concerns by the people that live there. So hindi tayo magmamadali diyan, hindi tayo pwedeng pabigla-bigla diyan, kailangang suriin ng mabuti yan, ngunit totoong pinag-iisipan yan [So we are not rushing this, we cannot be impulsive about this, we need to examine this carefully, but it is true that is being considered].”

Even if a gun ban is decided, Puno said implementing this would not be easy.

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