MANILA, Philippines—Despite their demonstrated ability to continue kidnapping people, including foreigners, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Tuesday that the bandit group was now a “marginalized” organization.
“The Abu Sayyaf [members are] very few. They have been marginalized. We are able to isolate them especially so with the recent encounter of the MNLF and the Abu Sayyaf,” Gazmin told reporters.
Gazmin said the Moro National Liberation Front has been giving the military information about the Abu Sayyaf, which “makes our job a little easier.”
Gazmin said that the government continued to work for the release of the Abu Sayyaf’s remaining after Australian national Warren Rodwell was freed by his captors after his family paid a ransom of P4 million.
The kidnap victims have been under the Abu Sayyaf’s hold for more than a year. But Gazmin said security forces are ensuring a safe rescue of the hostages to prevent a repetition of the deaths of American Martin Burnham and Filipino nurse Deborah Yap who were caught in the crossfire.
“We would want to prevent that from happening again, that is why we are studying the [rescue plan] carefully and we are coming up with a good plan so that the victims will not be hurt,” Gazmin said.
The defense chief also echoed a statement of President Aquino that while the government maintains a no-ransom policy, the government cannot stop the families of kidnap victims from paying off the Abu Sayyaf just to get their loved ones back. Nonetheless, Gazmin said, the government discourages the payment of ransom.
The government has a no-ransom policy because giving in to the demands of the Abu Sayyaf would only “give rise to more problems,” Gazmin said.