Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/02/09MANILA247.html
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA247
2009-02-05 10:09
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO3579
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0247/01 0361009
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 051009Z FEB 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3083
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0286
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2233
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000247

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: KIDNAPPED RED CROSS WORKERS BEGIN FOURTH WEEK WITH TERRORIST GROUP

REF: A. MANILA 0218 (DEFENSE SECRETARY BELIEVES TIME IS
RIGHT TO BUILD ON MIL-MIL COOPERATION)
¶B. 08 MANILA 1460 (BROADCAST JOURNALIST FREED BY
KIDNAPPERS)
¶C. 08 MANILA 1399 (TOP BROADCAST JOURNALIST
ABDUCTED IN MINDANAO)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, reasons
1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Three workers from the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) entered their fourth week
as captives of terrorists on Jolo Island in the southern
Philippines, while a task force led by the provincial
governor sought to engage the terrorist group to negotiate
the release of the Swiss, Italian, and Filipino nationals.
Security forces, meanwhile, positioned themselves in the
vicinity of the terrorist camp to prepare for a possible
rescue attempt. The kidnappers demanded in a letter to the
government this week that the Philippine armed forces
withdraw from Jolo Island and that Vice President Noli de
Castro and other politicians be part of the negotiations,
both non-starters for the Philippine government. In the
meantime, the victims have been communicating on a near-daily
basis with their families and ICRC officials, affirming that
they are still in good health. The lead ICRC official in the
Philippines noted that the organization maintains a “no
ransom” policy on kidnappings, but admitted that the
Philippine government would pursue its own course in any
negotiations, whose potential outcome at this point was
extremely uncertain. U.S. Joint Special Operations Task
Force (JSOTF-P) is providing routine intelligence sharing
support to the Philippine Armed Forces, but will not
participate in any rescue operation. END SUMMARY.

KIDNAPPERS DEMAND MILITARY WITHDRAWAL, NEGOTIATIONS
——————————————— ——

¶2. (C) Three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
workers entered their fourth week as captives of the
terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Jolo Island in the
southern Philippines. ASG-affiliated bandits kidnapped the
Swiss, Italian, and Filipino nationals on January 15 after an
ICRC prison visit at the Sulu provincial capital building in
Jolo City, evading a military pursuit and retreating quickly
with their victims into the jungles of nearby Indanan
municipality. Sulu Governor Abdelsakur Tan, head of the
province’s Task Force ICRC, charged with negotiating the
workers’ release, has not publicly offered details of any
discussions with the kidnappers. However, senior Philippine
government officials have confirmed to us the accuracy of
press reports this week describing the kidnappers’ demand
letter to the government outlining two preconditions for any
negotiations: that the Armed Forces of the Philippines
withdraw from the island and that Vice President Noli de
Castro and other politicians participate in negotiations.
The kidnappers made no other specific demands, and made no
demand for ransom. The victims, meanwhile, were confirmed to
be in good health during a visit to the terrorist camp by
Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne Sahidullah, and through regular
phone calls with their families, government officials, and
ICRC representatives.

GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS RESPONSE, MILITARY PREPARES FOR ACTION
——————————————— ————–

¶3. (C) Presidential Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said that
the Philippine government will follow its established
guidelines in negotiating the release of the Red Cross
workers, including the government’s policy of not giving in
to terrorists’ demands. He acknowledged that the government
would heed the recommendations of the Philippine National
Security Council and the Sulu Provincial Crisis Committee in
responding to the abductors. On the ground in Jolo, Armed
Forces of the Philippines General Sabban told press that he
was waiting for orders from the Sulu Provincial Crisis
Committee to launch a rescue operation. The U.S. Joint
Special Operations Task Force on Jolo has confirmed an
increase in planning activity for a rescue operation by the
Philippine military.

ICRC CONCERNED ABOUT PHILIPPINES’ APPROACH
——————————————

¶4. (C) The ICRC head of delegation in the Philippines told us
that he did not think the Philippines would agree to send
Vice President De Castro to join the ASG talks, as President

MANILA 00000247 002 OF 002

Arroyo’s press secretary had publicly indicated. ICRC was
concerned that Lady Anne, the Sulu Vice Governor who visited
the terrorist camp on her own, was acting like a “loose
cannon” and could complicate negotiations. In addition, Sulu
Governor Tan’s Task Force was not communicating consistently
with ICRC officials, making it difficult for the ICRC to
monitor progress in the situation. With the Philippine
government in control of negotiations, the ICRC delegation
head admitted that the government would solve the crisis on
its own terms, with its own methods. Still, the ICRC hoped
for a peaceful resolution to the situation, concerned about
the safety of the hostages and others if military forces were
to stage an aggressive rescue attempt.

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) Among many recent kidnappings in Muslim Mindanao, this
one with ICRC personnel is acquiring a high-profile in the
Philippines. Instead of asking for ransom, senior members of
the ASG terrorist group are seeking heightened political
bargaining, something they have not done in several years.
The government feels pressured to act quickly to rescue the
hostages before the kidnapping grows into a more major
political issue in the Philippines and even internationally.
With government forces building up in the vicinity of the
terrorist camp, and with the local police now under the
command of General Sabban, a military solution is beginning
to look more likely. Philippine Defense Secretary Teodoro
told Ambassador that the Philippine government felt they
needed to take action to rescue the hostages. He said the
situation had gone on for too long and that the tendency of
Filipino Red Cross officials to listen sympathetically to the
ASG kidnappers would only fuel more such kidnappings.
Teodoro said he was grateful for U.S. intelligence support
and understood that any Filipino rescue effort must protect
the lives of the ICRC staff.

KENNEY

   

 

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