ZAMBOANGA CITY: Military and police officials will have their hands full when they attend a public dialogue on Friday in Sulu province to answer allegations that authorities facilitated the payment of ransom to Abu Sayyaf militants in exchange for the release of two kidnapped Germans.
The dialogue was an offshoot of a meeting on October 20 by representatives of various civil society groups and different sectors with Sulu Gov. Toto Tan, who heads the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and its special ad hoc crisis committee handling the hostage crisis.
Top officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are among those expected to attend the dialogue to answer questions regarding the October 17 release of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, in exchange for P250 million ransom.
The ransom negotiations and release of the foreigners were so secretive that the military did not even inform the PPOC and the crisis committee about it. Up to now, the AFP and PNP have not submitted a report to the PPOC.
Gov. Tan said the PPOC and the crisis committee only learned about the release of the hostages after the media broke out the news. “We were not informed about that the hostages were already rescued and it was only through media reports that we became aware that they were rescued Friday night and (already) in the custody of the Armed Forces (of the Philippines,” he said.
The military strongly insisted that no ransom was paid.