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Gordon to AFP: ‘Hold your fire’

Posted by Abi Kwok on February 10, 2009

By Abigail Kwok

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon appealed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) not to engage gunmen who are holding three kidnapped workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sulu.

“Tumigil muna tayo sa putukan, lagyan natin ng konting distansya [Let us cease firing first, keep a little distance],” Gordon said.

Although he acknowledged that he “cannot tell them [military] what to do, we consider, foremost, the safety of the hostages, the soldiers, the civilian volunteers and even the safety of the group holding our people hostage,” Gordon, who is also chairman of the Philippine Nastional Red Cross and governor of the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), said on Tuesday.

The latest reports said nine government troops have been wounded since fighting broke out Monday afternoon, when members of the Abu Sayyaf who are holding the kidnapped aid workers tried to break through a cordon of soldiers and armed civilian volunteers.

At least two of the gunmen also died, the military said.

Gordon also appealed to the Abu Sayyaf to release Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipina Jean Lacaba.

“Pakiusap ko lang, huwag niyong pababayaan yang mga tao natin, tumutulong sa inyo yan, tumutulong hanggang ngayon sa mga lugar sa Mindanao na may mahihirap. Tumutulong kami sa baha, sa mga lumilikas ng tahanan, sa mga ‘internally displaced persons.’ Kung aalis yan, katulad ngayon walang ICRC sa Sulu, paano natin matutulungan ang Sulu [I appeal to you, take care of our people, they help you, they help you even now in places in Mindanao where there are poor. We help during floods, help those who flee their homes, the internally displaced persons. If they leave, like now when there is no ICRC in Sulu, how can we help Sulu]?” he said.

Gordon also denied reports of a ransom demand and stressed that he was willing to talk, but not negotiate, with the ICRC workers’ abductors.

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