DAVAO CITY: Officials of Canada and Norway have reportedly asked Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to take a proactive role in negotiations for the release of kidnapped foreigners who are now believed to be held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu.
“I told them that I have to establish my predicate first, my foundation there before I talk to them [the kidnappers],” Duterte told a small group of journalists on Monday night. “If my presence is needed, I would go there personally.”
He said it was made clear between him and the supposed representatives of Canada and Norway that the Philippine government is not paying ransom in exchange for the release of the hostages.
The three kidnapped victims–Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Maritess Flor–are believed to have been turned over to the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu after they were taken from Samal Island last week.
The kidnapping, Duterte said, apparently, was well-planned.
“It seems like there was a local group, a local contact. This group was the one responsible for the attack and for turning over the hostages to the main group,” he added.
The mayor said he is willing to negotiate the release of the hostages.
“I am doing this for my fellowmen, and because I am from Mindanao,” he added.
Duterte, however, is uncertain over how the crisis would end.
“I really do not know, because it is full of dynamics,” he said.
And because of this, the mayor appealed to the Abu Sayyaf to not harm the hostages, especially the woman.
“I hope that they will not hurt or abuse them. I am really hoping that they would eventually release the victims unharmed,” he said.
Duterte added that he is trying to reach out to Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari to ask for help.
The four victims together with their captors have been sighted in coastal villages in Sulu, a police intelligence report said on Tuesday.
The report added that the hostages were being moved by their kidnappers from Barangay Tanum in Patikul town to Barangay Silangkang in Parang town to elude pursuing government troops.
The victims, the report said, are being guarded by around 200 heavily-armed members of the Abu Sayyaf.
The leaders of the bandit group–Hatid Hajan, Radullan Sahiron alias Kumander Putol and Ustadz Yaser Igasan–were also seen having a meeting in Barangay Tanum.
WITH ANTHONY VARGAS