Duterte apologizes to Canadian leader
DAVAO CITY—Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he apologized to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the beheading by Abu Sayyaf bandits of a Canadian hostage in Sulu province last month.
In another briefing for reporters in Davao City that began close to midnight on Wednesday and lasted until early Thursday morning, Duterte said he apologized for the beheading of John Ridsdel when Trudeau called on Tuesday to congratulate him for his electoral victory.
“I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, please accept my apologies for the incident,’” Duterte said. “We will try our very best and see to it that nothing of this sort will happen again, and you can rest assured that when the time comes, we will be able to apprehend the criminals and exact justice.”
Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded Ridsdel on April 25 in Sulu after they failed to get a ransom of P300 million.
The bandits seized Ridsdel, Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Maritess Flor from a marina on Samal Island in Davao del Norte province in September last year.
June 13 deadline
On May 13, the bandits, blamed for extortion, bombings, kidnappings and beheadings involving foreigners in Western Mindanao, released a video showing Hall and Sekkingstad surrounded by hooded armed men.
A bandit, talking in the video, said ransom for the two captives should be delivered by June 13 or one of them would be killed.
The bandits did not say which of the two men would be killed. They demanded a P300-million ransom for each of the three hostages.
The military ignored the video, saying an operation to crush the Abu Sayyaf would continue.
“The deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf is its own deadline,” said Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson for the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
The safety of the hostages “is our primary concern,” Tan said.
Following the killing of Ridsdel, the military launched an offensive that, according to security officials, had killed more than a dozen bandits.
Trudeau earlier condemned the killing of Ridsdel as an “act of cold-blooded murder,” but vowed not to give in to the bandits’ ransom demands.
Duterte said his conversation with Trudeau lasted for nine minutes. He said he and Trudeau agreed to reaffirm the partnership between the Philippines and Canada.
“We are partners and we will be partners for all time,” Duterte said he told Trudeau.
Duterte, the maverick mayor of Davao City, said he also expressed his gratitude to Trudeau for the economic opportunities offered by the Canadian government to Filipinos in Canada.
“They are treated like Canadian citizens and they have very light jobs,” he said. “Some of them are immigrants, and I am happy that they have found protection under [Canadian] labor laws.”
Duterte said he and Trudeau also discussed human rights, and he said he told the Canadian leader: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fine, I said, ‘I’m following it, but Mr. Prime Minister, with few exceptions.’”
The foul-mouthed Duterte has been widely criticized for his controversial human rights record in Davao, which he has led for 22 years.
More than 1,000 suspected criminals have been killed in Davao by a loose-knit group of vigilantes that locals call the “Davao Death Squad.”
Duterte has been linked to the vigilantes, but he denies involvement with them.
On the campaign trail, however, Duterte promised to kill tens of thousands of suspected criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay, where the fish would grow fat from feeding on the corpses.
He has also vowed to revive the death penalty as part of a merciless campaign against crime.
Duterte, who won the May 9 presidential election on a wide margin based on an unofficial tally, will be inaugurated on June 30, the end of outgoing President Aquino’s six-year term. With reports from Aries Joseph Hegina, Inquirer.net; Inquirer Research, AP