PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his order to government troops to “destroy” the Abu Sayyaf following reports that an 18-year-old Filipino hostage was beheaded by the terror and kidnapping group.
Duterte, in a news conference in Davao City early on Thursday, said he will be “harsh” in going after the terrorist group.
“My orders to the police and to the Armed Forces against all enemies of the state, seek them out in their lairs, whatever, and destroy them,” the President said.
Maj. Felimon Tan, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command, said Patrick Almodovar, 18, was beheaded around 3 p.m. Wednesday at Banza village in Indanan, Sulu.
His severed head, wrapped in a plastic bag, was recovered in the village of Kadjatan also in Indanan town, but his body was missing.
Tan said Almodovar was executed after his family failed to meet the August 24 deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf to pay ransom.
The Abu Sayyaf, which is still holding more than a dozen hostages, demanded P1 million.
The military has tagged the group of Muammar Askali as behind the Almodovar’s brutal murder.
Asked what action the military will take, Tan said operations against the Abu Sayyaf were continuing, but higher-ups have ordered the reinforcement of troops in Sulu and Basilan.
“I cannot divulge how many troops have been inserted there, but I can assure you that it is huge,” Tan said.
The reinforcements are meant to increase the chances of blocking fleeing members of the terror group, Tan said.
But the main intention is to “end the Abu Sayyaf,” said the military official.
The military, Tan said, was able to send in more soldiers to Sulu and Basilan because of the government’s ongoing ceasefire with the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
A battalion supposed to go after the NPA was diverted to Sulu to reinforce security forces going after the Abu Sayyaf, he said.
Asked how his crackdown on the Abu Sayyaf will be different from those of previous administrations, Duterte said: “I’ll be harsh. Not just a campaign. Go out and destroy them. Don’t ask about human rights.”
Duterte said he had lost all faith in the Abu Sayyaf even if he considered himself somewhat connected to them.
“That’s where I lost my belief in you. I have this little connection by blood with you but you know, I’ve lost my belief in you,” he told the Abu Sayyaf.
The group earlier beheaded two Canadians—John Ridsdel, 68, in April and Robert Hall, 50, in June.
The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped the two Canadians, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor from a high-end resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte in September last year.
Flor was released to the military last June.
As to the Norwegian captive, Duterte told reporters a payment had been made.
It was unclear, however, how much was paid, who made the payment, and if it was made to secure the release of the hostage.
In July, the Abu Sayyaf seized three people—Shariff Julhasan Abirin, Levi Gonzales and his pregnant wife Daniela Taruc—in a village in Patikul, Sulu.
The victims were aboard a multi-cab vehicle when gunmen flagged it down in the village of Timpook and seized them.
The group has also threatened to behead Gonzales, who works as a technician for Globe Telecom, if the company does not pay a P1 million ransom.