MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday admitted that three weeks ago, he considered placing the entire province of Sulu under martial law to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf bandits holding two foreign and a Filipina hostages.
”Yes, in Sulu in particular,” the President replied when asked if he ever considered declaring martial law in ASG areas in a news briefing at Camp Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.
President Aquino said he considered martial law when the Abu Sayyaf Group gave deadline that they will kill another Canadian hostage Robert Hall if ransom will not be given for the hostage’s release.
However, President Aquino said he did not push through his plan for fear that it might draw sympathizers for the Abu Sayyaf Group in the area.
”Parang walang guarantee ng magkakaroon ng positive results. Baka magkaroon pa ng negative results at dagdag na simpatya doon sa mga kalaban,” he explained.
The President also said this would require the government to send huge number of reinforcement in Sulu just to implement the martial law.
The ASG eventually beheaded Hall and dumped the severed head of the victim near the Jolo Cathedral two days ago, prompting President Aquino to travel to Sulu to lead a high-level meeting with government security forces.
”We agreed this afternoon how to refine our operations for successful operations to rescue the remaining hostages,” President Aquino said.
The President was referring to Norweigan hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor.
Last April, the ASG also beheaded their first Canadian hostage John Ridsel after ransom was not also paid.
”We hope we are more focused and therefore increase the chances of resolving this situation successfully,” the President said.
The President said he was able to talk with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Tradeau and Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
”Humingi ako ng paumanhin sa Prime Minister ng Canada dahil nga hindi lang isa, dalawa na sa kanilang mga kababayan ang namatay. Nagpasalamat din tayo na nanindigan sila doon sa no-ransom policy,” President Aquino said.
President Aquino said the Norway leader asked for updates and asked the probability of successful resolution of the problem.
”I explained the problem. Naintindihan nya. I think he said something to the effect that ‘we understand the Philippines how complex this problem is,” the President said.
”Nagsalita rin siya that their government sabi nila ‘no ransom.’ Sabi nila, ‘but we do not have control over the private individual,” he added.
President Aquino, meanwhile, said he received reports from the military that the movement of the the ASG under Isnilon Hapilon has been limited to only two barangays in Basilan.
The outgoing leader also said he is willing to give advice to his successor President-elect Rodrigo Duterte if the Davao City mayor would seek Aquino’s unsolicited advice on the problem of ASG in Mindanao. Jelly Musico/PNA/northboundasia.com