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Aquino happy Germans released; Palace won’t confirm payment of ransom

By: - Reporter / @NikkoDizonINQ
/ 08:01 PM October 18, 2014
In this photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, kidnapped German nationals Stefan Okonek, left, and female companion Henrike Dielen, center, rest inside the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, after they were freed from the hands of the Muslim extremist group the Abu Sayyaf. Okonek and Dielen, who had been kidnapped and held for six months in the southern Philippines were released Friday by the militant group just hours after it had threatened to behead one of them if no ransom payment was made, the Philippine defense chief said. (AP Photo/Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command)

In this photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, kidnapped German nationals Stefan Okonek, left, and female companion Henrike Dielen, center, rest inside the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, after they were freed from the hands of the Muslim extremist group the Abu Sayyaf. Okonek and Dielen, who had been kidnapped and held for six months in the southern Philippines were released Friday by the militant group just hours after it had threatened to behead one of them if no ransom payment was made, the Philippine defense chief said. AP/Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino was happy to receive the news that German nationals Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrite Dielen have been released by their captors but Malacañang Saturday said it could not confirm reports that ransom was paid in exchange for their freedom—and their lives.

“The President was happy to receive the news yesterday (Friday) when he was informed that the two German hostages have already been recovered at around 9:00 p.m. (Friday) night,” Valte said over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

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Valte said Aquino inquired about the physical condition of Okonek and Dielen.

Although the kidnappers themselves and various news agencies reported that P250 million in ransom was paid, Valte stressed that the government still does not sanction the payment of ransom.

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“I cannot confirm that there has been a ransom paid primarily because… the long-standing policy of government is that we do not engage in the payment of ransom,” Valte said

Valte conceded, however, that while government was firm on its no-ransom policy, it could not dictate on others who want to pay kidnappers in exchange for the freedom and safety of hostages.

Valte directed questions about the reported P250-million ransom to the Armed Forces of the Philippines “primarily because they have more of the details and that they provided support to the law enforcement operation.”

Spokespersons for the Abu Sayyaf Group that held Okonek and Dielen captive claimed that ransom was paid, which led them to abort the execution of Okonek.

The Abu Sayyaf took Okonek and Dielen hostage in April after their boat broke down in the Palawan area on their way to Sabah.

The two German nationals are now in the custody of the German embassy in Manila following their release in Patikul, Sulu.

Valte said that as far as Malacañang was concerned, law enforcement operations would continue as long as there are hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf and other kidnap-for-ransom groups.

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TAGS: Abu Sayyaf, Henrite Dielen, Kidnap for Ransom, Kidnapping, Terrorism, Viktor Stefan Okonek
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