THE Philippine government on Friday announced that it has been working on the immediate and safe release of two German nationals who were abducted by the Abu Sayaf Group in April, but maintained that its no ransom policy remains.
Palace spokesperson Edwin Lacierda issued the statement following reports that the bandits are demanding a P250-million ransom for the release of the victims.
He pointed out the defense and foreign affairs departments are now handling the abduction case of the two German nationals.
“We’ve deferred to the military and the DND and also to the DFA kasi may konting sensitivity ito. May foreigners involved so we’d rather let the proper agencies speak on that matter,” he said.
[We’ve deferred to the military and the DND and also to the DFA because it’s a sensitive matter since some foreigners are involved so we’d rather let the proper agencies speak on that matter].
Lacierda also stressed during the briefing that the government’s “no-ransom” policy for victims of kidnapping remains in effect and has not changed.
“That [no-ransom policy] is the position of government,” Lacierda said, without giving details about the ongoing negotiations.
Earlier, reports indicated that backdoor negotiations are underway for the safe release of the German yachtsman Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55.
The two were abducted at sea on April 25 while en route to Sabah in Malaysia from a holiday in Palawan in western Philippines.
Aside from the P250 million ransom, ASG is also demanding that Germany stop supporting US military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A source earlier told The Manila Times that German negotiators gave P20 million as initial payment for the release of the two hostages, but neither the police nor military would confirm this.
Asked about the authorities’ moves to rescue the Germans, Lacierda said, “We would rather let them [military]discuss that.”
ASG is a loose band of several hundred Islamic militants originally organized with al-Qaeda funding in the 1990s.
It operates on remote islands of Mindanao and is responsible for a series of kidnappings for ransom, bombings and beheadings of their victims.
The ASG and another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
According to Lacierda, ISIS has resorted to “naked cruelty and naked violence,” which are “unacceptable.”
“Barbarity beyond what human decency, we’ve seen that…They have shown in their videos of incidence of beheading. This is totally unacceptable,” Lacierda said.
He said the Philippines “agrees” with the principle laid out by the US government” in launching attacks against the ISIS.
During his recent US trip, Aquino said the Philippines is willing to help in the US’ efforts to combat the ISIS.
The Islamic State jihadists control large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory, and have been accused of atrocities in these areas, such as the beheading of journalists.