Indon Military To Rescue Abu Sayyaf Hostages?
INDONESIA’S DEFENSE Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has secretly arrived in southern Philippines Philippines where where Abu Abu Sayyaf Sayyaf militants militants are are holding 7 Indonesian sailors, but Filipino security officials said they were not aware of his visit. Ryamizard Indonesia’s TV visited1 said Zamboanga and stayed there from June 24-24. And on June 29, reports broke out that Manila has allowed Indonesian military forces to enter Philippine territory in efforts to free the hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu province.
The Western Mindanao Command said it did not know that Ryamizard travelled to Zamboanga, just 9 hours by boat from Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
“They approved us to enter into Philippine waters and land,” Ryamizard told reporters, saying that the arrangement was decided on June 26 during his meeting with Philippine Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin, according to Kyodo News Agency. The report said the move is possible under a 1975 Border Crossing Agreement between the two countries that enables Indonesian forces to hunt terrorists and pirates across the border. It also quoted Gazmin as saying that the accord “allows Indonesian security forces, in coordination with ours, to conduct the hot pursuit of lawless elements on the sea across the maritime borders shared by our countries.” In the meeting, Manila reportedly decided to allow Indonesian soldiers to escort Indonesian vessels sailing to and from the Philippines so they can take quick action if the ships come under attack.
But the official Philippines News Agency also quoted Gazmin as saying “They (Indonesians) can only conduct operations to pursue within our area if the incident occurred within their waters, based on the principle of hot pursuit.”
Gazmin said Indonesian military units cannot just enter Philippine territory in a bid to rescue the hostages. He said it was the responsibility of Philippine security forces to rescue the victims.
He said this is consistent with the Philippine and Indonesia 1975 agreement where Indonesian security forces are allowed to enter Philippine maritime zones under the concept of hot pursuit in the same way that Filipino forces are allowed to enter Indonesian maritime zones.
When pursuit operations reaches land, Indonesian forces are only allowed to conduct limited operations, such as sharing information with Philippine authorities, not operations using arms, he said.
Both the Indonesian and Philippines militaries are also discussing a possible deployment of “sea marshals” that would escort citizens entering each other's countries.
Hostages in good
condition Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on June 28 also that based on information she had received the condition of the seven hostages - crew of tugboat Charles - was good.
The Kyodo News Agency also quoted Retno that although the Indonesian sailors were initially taken hostage by two different groups they were being detained together, but sometimes moved to a different place and divided into two groups. “They keep moving, but they are still in or around Jolo Island,” she said.
Indonesian Defense Force Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo has said the military believes the hostages are being held by Abu Sayyaf ’ s Alhabsi Misaya. He said the militants are demanding P200 million ransoms for the safe release of the hostages.
The sailors have been identified as Ferry Arifin, the tugboat skipper; M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, Ismail, M. Nasir, M. Sofyan and Robin Piter. The boat - owned by PT Rusianto Brothers - was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines when gunmen on speedboats intercepted it on June 22.
Indonesian media reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her that they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and were demanding 20 million ringgits for their safe release.
The Abu Sayyaf previ- ously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers in separate attacks at sea and brought them to Sulu province and eventually released through the intercession of the Moro National Liberation Front. The militant group has recently beheaded a Malaysian man and two Canadian hostages in Sulu after their family failed to pay ransom money. MNLF commitments
President Rodrigo Duterte said he will need to get the commitments of the Moro National Liberation Front - which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996 – before he can address security problems posed by the ISIS- affiliated Abu Sayyaf group.
Duterte has asked for more time to deal with the radical group that already beheaded a Malaysian and two Canadian hostages in Sulu province in southern Philippines where the MNLF is actively operating.
“Just give me the luxury of time, I cannot do it just immediately. There are things which I need which we do not have now. But there will be a time, there will be a reckoning. And when it comes, I will just say surrender unconditionally. Release all prisoners, hostages or we fight, but I have to have a firm commitment from our brother Moro about the continuity of the talks, hayaan na muna iyan, huwag silang sumama.”
“As soon as I get that guaranty na talagang peaceful ang intentions ninyo and you are not protecting terrorists and when I have it in my hands, I will be ready to confront and if we confront them, we’ll confront them, tapusin na talaga natin para wala ng gulo so that, my dream is really that one day all Filipinos, we just say Filipinos and we do not at all mention he’s left or right, he’s a Moro rebel or a Moro terrorist,” Duterte said.
There was no immediate reaction from the MNLF under Nur Misuari in Sulu. Martial Law in Sulu,
Basilan Duterte is also considering imposing martial law in Sulu and Basilan province to address the Abu Sayyaf problems.
But for former Sulu Vice Governor Sakur Tan, who was with Duterte in Davao City recently, said he personally heard how passionate the President was about the changes he wants to see in the country, and how angry he was - as he had always been - about the evils of drugs and criminality. And Duterte is deadly serious about it, according to Tan, a known philanthropy and respected political leader.
"We in Sulu have to attune ourselves to the dare and challenge of the new President if only to take them as opportunities to mend the new damages done to the image of our province because of incidences of kidnapping, the drug trade and other criminal activities by a few in our midst. No one can block the wave of changes," Tan said.
"The imposition of martial law by the new leadership is being considered on areas known to be lairs of kidnap- for- ransom and other armed group. We are of the opinion that we should tread light and with utmost care on the matter of imposing martial law. Even the mere mention of it reawakens the stigma of the bygone era more than four decades ago. Many us personally experienced that dark episode which was punctuated by abuses of the military authorities, and ignited a devastating and destructive rebellion," he added.
He said if and when martial law is imposed as the only option left to take, then it must be welldefined and limited only to target areas. The emergency powers, Tan said, that goes with it should not be intrusive on the civil rights of the people and should maintain, protect and respect the mandate of the dulyelected local government.
"We will not get in the way of the law against those who are proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt whatever their positions in the government or statue in society may be," Tan, who supported Duterte's presidency in the elections, said.
He said that incidences of criminality cannot find solution by iron- hand alone. He said the causes of such crimes and the emergence of armed groups trading in what they term as a "thriving industry" of kidnapping and drug trade should be seriously looked into.
Tan said there should be parallel actions by the national government to the military operations and law enforcement, in the shape and form of social, economic and livelihood programs, and the necessary infrastructures that are basic and prerequisites in nationbuilding such as roads, schools and hospitals, seaports, post- harvest facilities and so forth. He said on hindsight, if the huge allocations to the region were prudently and diligently spent for which they were earmarked, there would have been less persuasion to attract adventurism from any group, development remains to be a formidable deterrent.
"We take exception to the tirades of some sectors that the proliferation of crimes, specifically the kidnappings, as indicative of the failure of local governance. The local government is not in the chain of command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police where competency lies in the maintaining peace and order. People should not be barking up the wrong tree and instead let those who are mandated with responsibilities do so with due dilligence and they should be held to account for any dereliction of duties and tasks," Tan said.
"We have always maintained the position that law enforcement operations to be more effective should entail the involvement of the community and local leaders. It is not fair to pass judgment that local leaders and the people in the communities are coddling criminals and in one way or the other alleged to be committing the crimes themselves. We must bear in mind that this outlook is not healthy and may aggravate the situation further and ignite the flame of resistance against the authorities. The peaceloving and the exponents of the rule of law are still in the majority. Where will true justice be is we bundle the good and the bad together and judge the entire province to be in cahoots with criminals? Let the law take its course and do not let the innocent be the collateral damage to over- zealousness or selfagenda of some players in the field," he added.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte takes oath as the next President of the Republic of the Philippines.