Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Red Cross appeals for release of staff

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Thursday appealed for the unconditional release of three staff members kidnapped by suspected Islamic extremists in the southern Philippines.

The appeal came exactly a week after gunmen kidnapped ICRC workers Filipina Mary-Jean Lacaba, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss national Andreas Notter on the southern island of Jolo.

"I appeal to those holding Mary-Jean, Andreas and Eugenio to let them go as quickly as possible," said Alan Aeschlimann, head of the Asia operation of the Geneva-based organization.

"We want to have them back safe and sound," Aeschlimann said in a statement, noting that their families "are anxious and are waiting for them to come home."

The three had contacted the ICRC "several times" since they were seized by suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on January 15. The last telephone conversation was on Monday.

"We hope that we'll hear their voices again soon and that they remain unharmed," Aeschlimann said. "We also continue to hope that this difficult situation will have a positive outcome."

Military chief General Alexander Yano on Wednesday said troops have stepped up manhunt operations for the Abu Sayyaf, who are believed to have taken their hostages to a forested area near the remote Jolo town of Talipao.

Separately, a negotiating team in Jolo are trying to open dialogue with the kidnappers, who were reportedly demanding millions of dollars in ransom. The ICRC has said however that it has not received any ransom demands.

The Abu Sayyaf is a gang of Islamic extremists blamed for the country's worst terrorist attacks. It is on the US government's list of wanted foreign terrorist organizations and is behind the deaths of two US hostages seized from a beach resort in 2001.

In a separate development, two Abu Sayyaf members -- a father and son -- were arrested for the murder of a Catholic priest in January, 2008, a military spokeswoman said.

The two suspects, Ahmad Kuhutan and Kursid Kuhutan, have been linked to the killing of Father Rey Roda in the Tawi-Tawi islands, south of Jolo in a botched kidnapping attempt, said Lieutenant Steffani Cacho.(Agence France Presse)

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