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.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Sec. Teodoro sorry for delay in hostages' release

Military says no timetable for release

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Thursday apologized for the delay in the release of the three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) aid workers held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Jolo Island, Sulu province, since Jan. 15.

But the Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Alexander Yano said the government was not setting a timetable for the hostages’ release.

“I am asking for our people’s forgiveness and understanding,” he said in Filipino at a press briefing in MalacaƱang. “It’s not easy to work under this situation because we are dealing with an irrational organization.”

Teodoro said the governments of Italy and Switzerland were naturally “very concerned about the plight” of their nationals—Eugene Vagni and Andreas Notter, respectively. The third hostage is Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba.

“But I’m thankful that they understand the difficulty of the situation and have supported our efforts to secure the release of the hostages,” he said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the government negotiators to “exert and exhaust all measures to ensure the safe release of the hostages,” according to Teodoro.

He said Ms Arroyo wanted “a speedy resolution” but was aware of “the balance that needs to be done, which is to ensure the hostages’ safety.”

Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad has demanded that government troops withdraw from areas near where the bandits were holding out.

Early this week, he gave the government until March 31 to pull back its troops or one of the hostages would be beheaded.

‘Time running out’

Lacaba on Thursday called on the government to move quickly.

“Please tell them (the government) that if they can help, to make it faster because time is running out on us,” she told ANC television by mobile phone.

Lacaba said she and her colleagues were afraid for their lives “every minute, every second, because we don’t know when a firefight will suddenly start.”

She also said the three of them sometimes had nothing to eat because their captors were busy eluding the pursuing troops.

According to Lacaba, the hostages heard gunfire and explosions just above their heads last week, after Marine snipers fired as the bandits tried to breach a loose military cordon.

The episode sparked two days of clashes that killed three Marines and up to seven bandits.

The hostages were not harmed, but Parad later threatened to kill all of them if another clash erupted or if the military tried to rescue them.

In the same interview with ANC television Thursday, Parad repeated his earlier promise to free a hostage if troops moved farther away, and to behead one if they did not.

“They know I do what I say,” he said.

Fundraising for 2010

Said Teodoro at the press briefing: “I don’t see any positive thing that can be gained by the Abu Sayyaf if they make good their threat to behead the hostages. It would not do anybody any good.”

He also said the government had not ruled out the possibility that some local officials might be involved in kidnappings in the south, and that these activities could be aimed at raising funds for the 2010 elections.

“There could be some connection … We can surmise, but we cannot do anything about it without concrete evidence,” he said.

“And first things first: We have to secure the safe release of the hostages … We will deal with the problem later, when we have less pressing matters to [attend to].”

No timetable

At the same briefing, Yano said the government was “trying to explore all possibilities of peaceful action to recover the hostages safely.”

Yano said the government was not setting a timetable to recover Lacaba, Notter and Vagni.

“We have continued to maintain the pressure within the vicinity,” he said.

“We have seen to it that there would be no offensive action on the part of the government troops at this time … We will [give] time and space to allow peaceful measures to be undertaken.”

No pullout

On the phone from Jolo, Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo, the newly appointed spokesperson for the hostage crisis, said the military was continuing to assess the bandits’ demand because, he pointed out, to give in would be to virtually desert the local residents.
“We have repositioned our troops as [the bandits] had demanded,” Arevalo said, adding:

“There is no need for us to pull out any further. We are virtually giving them 92 percent of Jolo.”

Logical consequence

The Associated Press quoted Arevalo as also saying that the troops might be forced to launch an assault if the bandits harmed the hostages.

“It may sound a threat, but actually it isn’t. It is but a logical consequence of what they might do,” he said. “If they’ll harm or kill the hostages, they will remove the reason for us to talk to them.”

Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, the highest ranking military commander involved in the ground operation to secure the hostages’ release, also said the military was not pulling out.

“The troops are staying put, awaiting further advice of development, because we have observed that the Abu Sayyaf is becoming weaker, is disintegrating and under pressure,” he said.

‘Problem is the media’

Reacting to Lacaba’s plea, Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, one of the military officials authorized to speak on the matter, Thursday expressed hope that the hostage crisis would be resolved before the March 31 “deadline” set by the bandits for the withdrawal of troops.

But he said the media were adding to the pressure being brought to bear on the military.

“No one can tell [if these beheading threats are true or not] but these are taken seriously by the negotiating team. But the problem is the media, which doubles the pressure on us,” Pangilinan, the chief of the military’s Civil Relations Service, told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo from Zamboanga City, where he was attending a battalion commanders’ seminar.

According to Pangilinan, it is “customary” that the media desist from airing threats and demands so as not to affect the decisions of the negotiating team.

To Lacaba’s statement that occasionally she and the other hostages had nothing to eat, Pangilinan said the military was not enforcing a food blockade in the area.

Allaga made a similar denial, rebutting the claim of police Senior Supt. Julasirim Kasim on Wednesday that a food blockade had been implemented to deprive the Abu Sayyaf of provisions.

Now in command

Allaga, the chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said he was now taking charge of the military operation vice Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban.

Sabban has gone on leave; his superiors said it has nothing to do with Sen. Richard Gordon’s earlier criticism.

Gordon, the chair of the Philippine National Red Cross, has assailed Sabban for purportedly subverting efforts for the release of one of the hostages late last week.

Allaga said the government should not allow itself to be held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf.

“It’s only a threat. Why should we also become their hostage?” he said.

Asked to comment on the hostages’ own appeal for the withdrawal of troops from the area, Allaga said: “What’s not good is that [some government officials and the media] play up the plight of the hostages. I have been saying time and again that the hostages are already slaves, and that everything they do or say is [a result of being] under duress.”

Allaga said the media and other government officials could help in securing the hostages’ release by holding back on information.

He said media interviews with the kidnappers were beyond the control of the military, which was ending up in a bad situation.

Hostages safe

Allaga said that despite the clashes, Lacaba, Notter and Vagni were safe.

He said Chief Supt. Felizardo Serapio Jr., the head of the Western Mindanao police’s directorate for integrated police operations, was in charge of the police troops, and that Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan was supervising Task Force ICRC. With reports from Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pacquiao to face legal battle as he dumped Solar Sports in favor of ABS-CBN

Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao is getting yet another distraction as he prepare for his upcoming fight with Ricky Hatton. Solar Entertainment Corp. will be seeking legal venues as Pacquiao terminates his exclusive contract with them.

Solar Sports legal counsel Enrique dela Cruz, Jr. announced their plan in a television interview. He also warned third parties of meddling or intervening with contract. Dela Cruz specifically mentioned ABS-CBN in the interview as one of the parties who meddle with their contract with Pacquiao.

Pacquiao already announced his decision that he will give ABS-CBN the exclusive coverage of his fight in recent TV interview.

Solar, through Dela Cruz, said that they will file for breach of contract as they insist that their contract with Pacquiao’s MP Productions is still in effect. Solar said that Pacquiao granted them (Solar Entertainment) the exclusive rights to the audio-visual presentation of all bouts of Manny Pacquiao from May 7, 2009 to May 6, 2009.

Any attempt of Manny Pacquiao to rescind the License Agreement without any factual or legal basis is ill-advised. Solar warned third parties against interfering with their agreement with Pacquiao. “Solar shall avail of all its legal remedies to the fullest extent against any undue breach of and/or tortuous interference with the License Agreement,” Solar added.

Pacquiao, for his part, based his decision to rescind his contract with Solar Entertainment because of the latter’s delayed in the payment of the fees stipulated in the contract.

Solar reported that Pacquiao sent them a letter stating, “This is to inform you of the decision of the undersigned to rescind the subject contract, effective immediately. Despite repeated demands, SOLAR has failed to fulfill its obligation to pay the undersigned the stipulated fees for the subject rights.”

So even as he prepare for his fight in the right with Hatton, Pacquiao could also be preparing for a legal battle as well.

Hostages: ‘Why does gov’t want us to die?’

Angry, exhausted and frustrated, the three Red Cross workers held hostage for two months by Abu Sayyaf kidnappers poured their hearts out in a phone conversation Thursday with Sen. Richard Gordon.

First allowed to speak at 2:20 p.m. by gang leader Albader Parad was Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, who sounded afraid in the forested Indanan hideout on Jolo island, which was encircled by troops a day after clashes over the previous 48 hours had left five dead and 19 wounded.

“It is difficult to remain calm if your life is constantly on the line,” Lacaba said in Filipino in a soft pleading voice, obviously shaking in fear as Gordon, who was in his Makati City office, coaxed her to remain strong.

“You don’t know where a bullet will hit you,” she said, “your head, your back … you can see the fire fight.”

Gordon replied: “Do not show them that you are weak. I am proud of you. Be strong.”

Lacaba said she and the two other workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)—Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Andreas Notter of Switzerland—remained together during the clashes.

“It was terrible. We saw the gun battles in front of us. We saw the killings. It was really terrible,” said the 37-year-old Filipino engineer.

“We have been here for 64 days,” she said. “I don’t know if we are ever going to be free.”

Gordon told Lacaba not to lose hope. But Lacaba replied that it was tough to be courageous in the situation they were in. “It is easy for you to say that, senator, but it is very difficult …”

Lacaba passed the cell phone to Vagni, 62, who did not even bother to greet the senator. Apparently in tears, he shouted: “Why does the government want us to die? I don’t understand! I don’t understand!”

‘What is gov’t doing?’

“I am not the government, Eugenio,” said Gordon, chair of the Philippine National Red Cross. “I just can’t turn my back on you. I need you to be strong. You need to be strong; can you do that for me?”

Still in high-pitched voice, Vagni yelled: “I am strong. We are strong. But what is the government doing? We came to the Philippines to do something good. Why do we have to die?”

Sobbing, he said: “We have to be strong. We will be stronger. But if the military will not pull out, we are going to die.”

“I am trying my best,” Gordon said. “I’ve had my pains in life, but it’s nothing compared to yours.”

Vagni, who is reported to be ailing, said the last few days had been very painful.

Sensing that the Italian was losing hope, Gordon said: “Remember who you are, Eugenio. I am going to fight for you, you remember that, but you must show your dignity… Do not give up. We are doing our best.”

“OK, senator. OK, OK,” Vagni said.

‘Catastrophic’

Notter was on the phone next. He sounded in a rage.

“The situation is very bad. It is catastrophic! I really cannot understand what your government is doing. Rescue? The government sent the military to rescue us? No! These guys came to kill us, have us killed, not rescue us!” he screamed.

Notter, 38, said the ICRC was invited by the Philippine government in 1982 to undertake humanitarian mission. “Now they are going to kill us?”

Gordon tried to cut him, but Notter railed on: “One more attack, they are going to kill us! And let me tell you this, senator, if I’m going to survive this, I’m going to make sure that the whole world knows what happened here. This is going too far!”

Notter said the military action was a “completely wrong move.” He asked what Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano was doing.

“I cannot understand the military. There is a chain of command but what is General Yano doing?”

Notter also mentioned the number of days since the three were seized by the Abu Sayyaf bandits on Jan. 15.

Word of honor

The conversations with Gordon lasted over an hour. The last time the hostages were allowed the use of a cell phone was on March 11, when they talked with their ICRC colleagues.

Parad had called Gordon on Tuesday to deny that he had been killed in the fire fight.

The kidnapper sounded apologetic Thursday. Gordon pleaded with him to release the hostages, saying they would not be in that condition if he had not seized them.

“You will not be embarrassed,” Parad said.

He said that if the military pulled out, Gordon would get one hostage.

Parad did not repeat his threat to behead the ICRC workers if the military pressed their operation against the kidnappers.

He did not say whom he would release, but he said he would keep his word.

“Usapang lalaki.” A gentleman’s word.(Arlyn dela Cruz)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pacquiao KOs sparmate on first sparring day

In an event that may send warning signals to Ricky Hatton’s camp, Manny Pacquiao displayed deadly form in his first day of sparring by knocking down one of his sparmates.
According to a report by philboxing.com’s Dr. Ed de la Vega, Pacquiao had sparmate Art Hovhannesyan down on all fours in just the second round.

Those close to the action said the hapless Hovhannesyan, an undefeated lightweight sporting a record of 7-0-1, 2 KOs, also suffered a one-inch cut in the eyelid. The gash was reportedly caused by a Pacquiao left hook.

Pacquiao faces the British slugger Hatton on May 2 in Las Vegas. - By Dino Maragay (Philstar News Service, www.philstar.com)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

3 more teachers seized in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Armed men kidnapped three female public school teachers off the coastal town of Naga in Zamboanga Sibugay Friday, authorities said.

The kidnapping came a month after three other teachers were kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Basilan.

Senior Superintendent Pederico Castro, Zamboanga Sibugay provincial police director, said policemen figured in a brief gun battle with an armed group believed to be responsible for the kidnapping.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or injuries in the encounter.

Authorities believe that the three teachers – initially identified as Noemi Navales Mandi, Jocelyn Enriquez and Jocelyn Inion, all of the Bangkaw-Bangkaw Elementary School – were brought to Basilan by their kidnappers.

The teachers were on board a motorized banca with a male operator when four gunmen on board another pumpboat chased them.

Castro said the banca operator tried to outrun the kidnappers but failed. He then jumped and swam away, leaving the teachers in the banca.

The gunmen then forced the teachers into their pumpboat and sped away.

Castro said another teacher, a Muslim, was not taken by the kidnappers. The teacher paddled the boat and picked up the banca operator along the way before going ashore to report the incident.

Authorities have no immediate suspects and no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus condemned the kidnapping, the second in less than two months.

“We condemn all forms and acts of violence and harassment inflicted on hapless teachers. They perform a noble role in nation-building and are indispensable instruments for lasting peace and prosperity,” he said.

Lapus said young school-aged children would be the ultimate victims of the kidnapping of teachers.

“We appeal for justice for the teacher-victims and ask lawless elements to spare our schools, our teachers and our children,” he said.

Lapus urged local officials to implement measures to protect public school teachers from being kidnapped.

“The community should protect our teachers, otherwise our teachers would be afraid to go out and do their duties,” he said.

Lapus said the spate of kidnappings has forced several public school teachers to refuse deployment in remote areas in Zamboanga and other provinces in Mindanao.

In certain areas in Mindanao, particularly in Zamboanga, he said teachers have started to ask for reassignment to other areas due to fear for their safety.

“In some schools (in Zamboanga), policemen have assumed the role of teachers since there are no teachers anymore,” Lapus said.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro also called on local government units to implement the barangay defense system to protect public school teachers in their villages.

“This recent kidnapping only showed that there is indeed a need for all local government officials to strengthen their barangay-based defense system,” he said.

Teodoro said the kidnapping at Zamboanga Sibugay came at a time when the police and military have succeeded in addressing the menace in nearby Zamboanga City.

“Our troops could not be in different places at one time. We were able to prevent kidnappings in Zamboanga City, then the kidnappers struck in Zamboanga Sibugay,” he said.

Teodoro said local officials could no longer afford to take it easy when it comes to securing their respective communities.

He cited intelligence reports that the kidnappers have brought their three hostages to Basilan.

He said government security forces are now verifying reports that the kidnappers were Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas.(By Roel PareƱo)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

3 kidnapped Red Cross workers calm—ICRC

The three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remained calm despite their continued captivity by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Sulu, the incoming communications coordinator of the aid group said Friday.

Anastacia Isyuk, who was set to replace Roland Bigler, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipina Jean Lacaba, made contacts with the ICRC office in Manila on Wednesday.

Notter, Vagni and Lacaba were being held by the group of Albader Parad after they were snatched just outside the Sulu provincial capitol in Patikul town on January 15.

"Yes, we heard from them on Wednesday. Although it's an enormously tremendous situation for them, they did sound calm and composed," Isyuk said.

But she declined to reveal the other details of their talk with the three kidnapped victims.

Isyuk said the ICRC community was eagerly watching the situation and that they were hoping their three colleagues would be freed soon. On the ICRC website, a counter reflecting the days the three had spent in captivity was also posted.

"It means that we are all waiting everyday, all the ICRC staff here in Manila, in Geneva and worldwide for our colleagues to be back with us again and of course we hope this day will come very soon," Isyuk said.

She said the ICRC community also admires the three captives for their "resilience in dealing with this difficult situation."

"And we believe that their health is stable even though they are suffering from fatigue and stress," Isyuk said.

Asked about the reported ransom money the Abu Sayyaf had demanded in exchange for the freedom of the victims, Isyuk begged off.

The alleged P50-million ransom was bared by Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, who heads a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin admitted receiving similar reports but he dismissed them as rumors because "I was not the one who personally received it."

Amin said if the P50-million demand was true, it could be for cigarettes and coffee only.

He said he even received information that the Abu Sayyaf wanted P500M for all three hostages. Parad had denied his group was asking money.(Julie Alipala)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

2 hurt in Cotabato City blast

Two people were slightly injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off inside a lodge in Cotabato City Tuesday night, a police official said on Wednesday.

Agong Lodge manager Dagadas Pantao, 52, and staff Anwar Gaca, 21, suffered minor injuries when the IED exploded inside room 318 of the hotel located at Usman Building, Don Rufino Alonzo Street at 9:10 p.m., a report from city police chief Senior Superintendent Willie Dangane said.

Prior to the explosion, the room was believed to have been occupied by two men and registered under a certain Adz Ali, an alleged soldier, since Sunday.

The explosion destroyed four rooms of the lodge, Dangane said, while the injured were rushed to the Cotabato Regional Hospital for treatment.

Police also arrested a certain Benzar Yahya Asula, who identified himself as an agent of the intelligence officer assigned to police regional office 10.

Asula was caught suspiciously roaming the hotel and yielded a home-made caliber 380 pistol, Dangane said.(By Abigail Kwok)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Malaysia assures support to GRP-MILF peace talks

Malaysia has assured the Philippine government of its continued support to the efforts to forge a final peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a press briefing with reporters covering the Asean summit in Thailand, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the assurance came from no less than Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi himself.

Gonzales said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asked Badawi during their bilateral meeting to do something so that the negotiating panels of the Philippine government and the MILF would meet again soon.

“Hiniling lang naman ng Pangulo ang patuloy na pagtulong ng Malaysia sa atin sa peace talks at gusto ng Presidente natin na magsimula na uli ang pag-uusap kaya hiniling ng Presidente sa Malaysia na kung puwede, gumawa na ng mga hakbang para muling magkita ang dalawang panel,” he said.

[“President Arroyo asked Malaysia to continue supporting the peace talks because our President wants the negotiations to resume. She asked Malaysia if it could do something to convince the two panels to meet again.”]

Gonzales said Badawi responded favorably to President Arroyo’s request.

“Badawi said Malaysia is always willing to help so they will help. They will try to facilitate (the resumption of peace talks). They will help in making sure the two panels will meet,” Gonzales said.

He added that no date was mentioned but “I'm assuming it will be as soon as possible.”

Aside from Gonzales, those who joined President Arroyo in the bilateral meeting were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and government chief negotiator Rafael Seguis.

Badawi, on the other hand, was accompanied by Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim and Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Ahmad Fuzi.(GMANews.TV)

Kidnapped ICRC workers in Sulu cry for help

‘It’s become very hard, truly painful’

The Filipino engineer held captive by Abu Sayyaf bandits in the mountains of Indanan, Sulu, along with her two colleagues in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has pleaded for help to end their suffering.

Mary Jean Lacaba was allowed by her captors to speak on the phone with this reporter on the afternoon of Feb. 25. Her voice was low and trembling, and she spoke in short sentences, in a mix of Filipino and English.

Lacaba relayed the same message over and over again, directed at the government or anyone else working on their release: She and her colleagues need help. They still have no idea what the Abu Sayyaf wants in exchange for their freedom.

“Please tell them, if possible, if they can, to quicken the process. It has become very hard and truly painful. Physically and emotionally, it’s really very, very hard,” she said.

With Andreas Notter of Switzerland and Eugenio Vagni of Italy, Lacaba was abducted by gunmen in Jolo, Sulu, on Jan. 15, just after they finished inspecting water facilities in the Jolo jail.

It was only much later that the Abu Sayyaf bandit group, through Albader Parad, claimed responsibility for the abduction.

No contact

In Geneva where it is based, the ICRC said it had had no direct contact with Notter, Vagni and Lacaba for a week.

Alain Aeschlimann, the head of the ICRC’s Asia-Pacific operations, said the three aid workers were being moved through the jungle and were reportedly suffering ill health.

Aeschlimann quoted a reliable source as saying that the three aid workers had received medical supplies sent to them.

He said the ICRC was appealing to the abductors’ sense of humanity and asking for the swift and unconditional release of Lacaba, Notter and Vagni.

On the phone with this reporter, Lacaba said she did not want to stay a day longer where she and her colleagues were being held.

“It’s really very difficult now. Help us so our suffering will end,” she said, adding that she and Vagni had again been afflicted with diarrhea.

Notter spoke of the same physical and emotional distress in an interview with radio station dzEC/NET-25 on the afternoon of Feb. 17.

No ransom demand

The Abu Sayyaf has yet to make an official ransom demand for the release of the three aid workers.

This was confirmed by Sulu Vice Gov. Lady Anne Sahidullah, who said she had kept her lines open with the Abu Sayyaf after she produced a proof-of-life picture of the captives late in January.

“I did not believe that they do not want ransom until I heard it myself from them. Of course, no one will believe this because we all know what happened in their previous kidnapping cases. This is the first time I heard them say there will be no ransom,” Sahidullah said.

According to the vice governor, the information that the Abu Sayyaf did not want ransom in exchange for the captives’ release came, not from Parad, but from another commander older and more experienced than he.

That commander is known as Dr. Abu, who was a combatant of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) before he joined the ranks of the Abu Sayyaf.

Military pullout first

Pader had been telling not only the three aid workers but also members of the media that there would no negotiation for the captives’ release without a military pullout.

Sahidullah told this reporter that the Sulu provincial crisis committee—which is headed by Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan—was doing its best to negotiate for the peaceful release of the three, or even just one.

She said she had tried to bargain for Lacaba’s release and had come close to convincing the Abu Sayyaf to free the captive as a sign of “goodwill,” but that certain factors intervened in her attempt.

“Even if I knew that they were amenable to releasing Mary Jean to me, it didn’t push through. There were many considerations—an ongoing military operation, the possibility that I might be sabotaged on the way…” she said.

A source from the MNLF told this reporter that a Sulu official had tried to pay P5 million for the freedom of the three captives.

But Sahidullah denied this, saying: “All I know is that [the captors] don’t want to discuss ransom.”

Former MNLF Chair Nur Misuari and his loyal faction in the group was tapped by the Sulu provincial crisis committee to help in the negotiation.

But the Abu Sayyaf through Parad maintained its position: “No negotiation with anyone or any group” without a military pullout. (By Arlene de la Cruz)