From GMA News (Jun 28): COMMUNITIES PROTECT THE BANDITS Dureza: Abu Sayyaf pays, arms children to guard hostages
Incoming peace adviser Jesus Dureza said Tuesday that the Abu Sayyaf Group uses 12-year-old boys to guard their hostages and members of communities in far-flung areas of Mindanao provide them protection.
In an interview with News To Go, Dureza said freed hostage victim Marites Flor told him that the children were armed and were given money by the bandit group.
"Sabi ni Maritess, 'Sir, may mga bata pa r'un na gumagwardya sa amin na may mga baril, 12 years old.' Tapos kinakausap niya eh they have no other life they know, they don't have schools there, they don't have facilities, they're just poor, nakikibahagi sila kung may kita yung mga kidnappers," he said.
Flor was released last week to Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan.
She was kidnapped along with Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad and Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel on Samal Island in September 2015. The bandits have beheaded the two Canadians while negotiations are ongoing for the release of Sekkingstad.
He said that according to Flor, they constantly in the move during her nine months in captivity to avoid military detection.
Dureza said that based on Flor's recollection, the villagers would provide perimeter security for the bandits.
"May mga areas na pupuntahan nila, yung members of the community will even provide them the security cordon to protect the hostages and also the hostage taker," he said.
"Karamihan ng community members they also benefit from it dahil 'pag may pera daw na makukuha from some other ransom sources, hati-hati 'yan, may pabigay sa lahat ng tumutulong. In other words, naging kabuhayan na rin ng iba in the community," he added.
There's no gov't there
Dureza said that this is the reason why the government cannot just launch attacks on the known lairs of the ASG, to keep civilians from harm.
"We cannot deal with this situation just sinasabi ng iba na bobombahin na lang yun, aatakihin na lang yun. There is a community around it and you have to address the reasons why they are also involved in that way," he said.
"They are isolated. They are very poor. They don't have schools there. There is no government there. They have not felt the presence of government. So kailangan siguro i-address din 'yan eh, hindi lang yung terrorist dun," he added.
Dureza said there is a need to isolate the communities from the 'bad guys.'
"They should be isolated from these bad guys. 'Yung siguro ang entry point natin, while you deal with hard iron fist way with the bad guys, you have to deal with the community out there," he said.
"It is a military problem but then you have to deal with the environment, hindi lang military solution," he further said.
Dureza said some people in the community find colluding with Abu Sayyaf as a way to earn money.
"Yung iba dyan pera-pera lang. They find this as a very lucrative way of earning money," he said.
Dureza, meanwhile, declined to reveal other information provided by Flor as "some of them have tactical value to our soldiers and police officers."
During a thanksgiving party in Cebu on Saturday night, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he does not consider the Abu Sayyaf an enemy but asked the group to clarify whether it wants to be seen by the government in an adversarial way.
“Abu Sayyaf, hindi ko sila kalaban. I know that is connected with the issue of Mindanao. Nais ko lang linawin, sila ba? Are they willing to talk or just fight it out?” he said.
Although Duterte’s camp has negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of Flor, Dureza earlier clarified that opening lines of communications does not mean the government will talk peace with the local terror group.