Wednesday, April 27, 2016

President Aquino vows “degraded problem” on ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 27): President Aquino vows “degraded problem” on ASG

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday vowed the continued fight against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to prevent the bandits from terrorizing people and get the attention and funding of ISIS.

“I am ready to devote all my energies towards ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem that I will pass on to my successor,” he said in a statement.

The statement was issued nearly two days after the bandits beheaded one of their Canadian hostages, John Ridsdel, who was among the four people the bandits kidnapped from a resort in Samal Island on Sept. 21, 2015.

The President said he had written Ridsdel’s family to express his condolences.

“We are so appalled by this murder. Mr. Ridsdel was a person against whom no one had any grievance—a person who was powerless against his captors. This murder was meant to terrorize our whole population,” he said.

The President said military operations against the bandits continue, particularly in Sulu, to save the hostages who were seized along with Ridsdel.

He said the hostages were reportedly under the control of one Radilon Sajiron, whom Aquino said “has consolidated his forces around himself and the captives.”

He said this situation was “both a problem and an opportunity.”

“It is a problem because of the sizeable force surrounding Sajiron and the captives, but it is also an opportunity because smashing these forces is within our grasp,” he said.

“This is why intensive operations are ongoing against the ASG forces holding civilians captive in Sulu. The full resources of the State are being brought down on the ASG. Our primary objective is to rescue the hostages and ensure the safety of our civilian population,” he said.

President Aquino said the atrocities of the ASG were the main reasons for the continued military operations in Balisan, particularly targeted ASG head Isnilon Hapilon and a deputy, Furuji Indama.

“We will leave no stone unturned and are studying every instrument, both military and legal, to ensure success in our areas of operations and wherever else required,” he said pointing out the government’s target was “to seriously erode any ability of the ASG to continue to function.”

The President said “casualties are expected” but assured the public that what was important was neutralizing ASG’s criminal activities.

“The men and women in our Armed Forces are well-trained, well-equipped, and resourceful. I have full trust and confidence in them,” he said.

President Aquino also said the government had been open to dialogues with the rebels but pointed out that it “will always act from a position of strength.”

“So, to the ASG, and whoever may aid or abet them, you have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language,” he said.

"We will not stop until the threat they pose to our communities is ended,” he said.

This after disclosing that ASG has targeted several personalities, including him, his sister, Kris, and one of her kids; and Filipino boxing champ Manny Pacquiao and one of his kids.

President Aquino said ASG, along with smaller terrorist group, have continued their kidnap-for-ransom activities to get the attention and receive funding from ISIS.

He noted that even at the start of the current Aquino administration the ASG has planned to conduct a series of bombing in Metro Manila “to catch the attention of ISIS.”

”May I emphasize that these have been, and remain, only aspirations,” he said.

The President also said the bandits, through its allies in prison, even tried to convert prisoners in the New Bilibid Prison in line with their plan to conduct bombings in the metropolis.

There were no improvised explosive devices (IEDs) found that can be traced to the ASG but authorities have monitored the bandits’ activities and network and even arrested some key players, he said.

”I credit our security services for putting these threats to bed with both professionalism and discretion. The public may rest assured that they may go about their daily lives without fear or unease,” he added.

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