President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday revealed that the Abu Sayyaf had plotted to kidnap his sister, television host Kris Aquino, and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, as he vowed to leave “no stone unturned” in the government’s intensive operations against the terrorist group.
In a statement sent to the media, Aquino said the Abu Sayyaf planned such attempts as part of their efforts to catch the attention of the international terrorist group Islamic State or ISIS.
“As part of their effort to gain favor with ISIS, one of the ASG leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, through his cohorts in prison, has tried to convert other prisoners in New Bilibid Prison to their cause and establish ties with remnants of the Rajah Sulayman Movement purportedly in an attempt to embark on a bombing campaign in Metro Manila,” Aquino said.
“They allegedly even hatched plots to kidnap Manny Pacquiao or one of his children, as well as my sister Kris or one of her children, with the plan to use them in bargaining for the release of their cohorts. Threats against my own life have been investigated,” he added.
Nevertheless, Aquino assured that “the public may rest assured that they may go about their daily lives without fear or unease.”
“However, we want to continue to seriously erode any ability of the ASG to continue to function. This is the reason we are conducting continuing operations in Basilan versus Isnilon Hapilon and his sub-leader Furuji Indama,” he said.
Beheading of Ridsdel
Aquino released the statement following the beheading of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel, a former mining executive who was captured along with three other people in September 2015 while on vacation on Samal Island in Davao del Norte.
The Abu Sayyaf had demanded a P300-million ransom for Ridsdel's release, the same set for another Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman who appeared with him in a video appealing to their governments to save them.
Ridsdel's head was found in a yellow sack that was dumped near the government hall in Jolo, the capital of Sulu, by two people on a motorcycle on Monday.
On Wednesday morning, a headless cadaver was recovered in Barangay Bayug in Talipao town. As of posting time, however, authorities are still verifying if the body is that of Ridsdel.
Meanwhile, the President said he has sent a letter to Ridsdel’s family to express his condolences, adding that the murder was “meant to terrorize our whole population.”
He said he has full trust and confidence in the well-trained and well-equipped Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to carry out the operations against the Abu Sayyaf and rescue the hostages still being held captive by the group.
Aquino said the captives are under the control of Radillon Sajiron, the ASG leader in Sulu, who has supposedly consolidated his forces around himself and the captives.
“This presents both a problem and an opportunity. It is a problem because of the sizeable force surrounding Sajiron and the captives, but it is also an opportunity because smashing these forces is within our grasp,” he said.
“Our primary objective is to rescue the hostages and ensure the safety of our civilian population. We will leave no stone unturned and are studying every instrument, both military and legal, to ensure success in our areas of operations and wherever else required,” Aquino said.
“We have proven before that we will choose all-out justice over all-out war. We have always believed in the power of dialogue, development, and positive engagement over arms. But we will always act from a position of strength. So, to the ASG, and whoever may aid or abet them, you have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language,” the President said. — RSJ, GMA News