Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA727.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA727
2009-04-03 08:47
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3755
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0300
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2259
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000727

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/03/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE AUTHORITIES SECURE RELEASE OF ONE ICRC HOSTAGE

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: On April 2, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)
kidnappers on Jolo Island released Filipino hostage Mary Jean
Lacaba, one of three International Committee of the Red Cross
workers abducted by the terrorist group on January 15.
Philippine authorities said she was in good health. Lacaba
said that she had last seen fellow hostages Andreas Notter
and Eugenio Vagni at 6:00 p.m. on April 2. Her safe return
came after the Philippine government rejected the ASG’s
demands for a full troop withdrawal and ordered the military
to close in on the kidnappers. The Ambassador met April 3
with Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, head of the presidential
management staff, and he confirmed that the Philippine
government was still committed to securing the safe release
of the remaining hostages but that military preparations were
ongoing in the event the kidnappers refused to surrender the
ICRC workers. END SUMMARY.

————————-
FILIPINO HOSTAGE RELEASED
————————-

¶2. (C) The tense situation surrounding the fate of three
International Committee of the Red Cross workers (ICRC)
abducted January 15 by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) took a
positive turn on April 2, when Filipino hostage Mary Jean
Lacaba was released to Sulu Vice Governor Lady Anne
Sahidullah. Lacaba was freed around 9:00 p.m. and turned
over to the military for a medical examination and
debriefing. Philippine authorities later flew her to Manila
to meet with her family.

—————————–
SITUATION HANDLED WELL SO FAR
—————————–

¶3. (C) The Ambassador met with Secretary Hermogenes Esperon,
Director General of the Presidential Management Staff, on
April 3 to discuss the ICRC hostage situation. Esperon,
former Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, said that Western
Mindanao commander LTG Allaga had handled the crisis well.
Referring to the release of Lacaba, Esperon said there was
always a negotiation on-going while the military was
preparing for action. The Ambassador asked if money had
exchanged hands, to which Esperon demurred, saying that there
was a “perception on the street that the Italians are known
for always paying,” but he declined to elaborate.

¶4. (C) The Ambassador commended the Philippine government
for its handling of the situation to date and for not
agreeing to terrorist demands. Esperon replied it was
“outrageous” that anyone would expect the Philippine
government to turn over Jolo Island to a known terrorist
organization. He said that the Arroyo administration saw the
USG as the one government who seemed to understand the
delicate balance involved and was not trying to get the
Filipinos simply to give in to terrorists. Esperon said the
Philippine government was frustrated with the ICRC for
refusing Philippine security and ignoring the military’s
warning that the location they were visiting was not safe
without escort. The Ambassador emphasized U.S. concern for
the hostages’ safety and noted that the USG’s key role in
supporting the ICRC. Esperon thanked the Ambassador for all
the support provided by the Joint Special Operations Task
Force-Philippines on Jolo Island and for the offer of
additional humanitarian assistance for the hostages upon
their release.

—————————-
ICRC THANKFUL FOR ASSISTANCE
—————————-

¶5. (C) Philippine ICRC head Jean Daniel Tauxe called
POLCOUNS April 3 and thanked the USG for all its help in
Manila and on Jolo Island. Tauxe said Mary Jean Lacaba was
now in Manila seeing a doctor, and she and her family were
shielded from the press. According to Tauxe, Lacaba has no
significant physical or apparent psychological injuries and
seemed “amazingly well” considering her ordeal. Tauxe said
Lacaba’s two fellow hostages, Andreas Notter and Eugenio
Vagni, were alive as of 6:00 p.m. on April 2, when she last
saw them. At that time, she was taken to another nearby

MANILA 00000727 002 OF 002

village and turned over unceremoniously to Sahidullah. For
her part, Sahidullah told Tauxe that she had been called in
the afternoon and told to show up on the outskirts of a town,
and when she arrived, Lacaba was there.

¶6. (C) Tauxe said that Lacaba claimed that while she and her
fellow hostages were sometimes tied up, at no time did they
seriously fear for their lives, except when the AFP launched
its assault, when they thought they might be injured by
collateral damage. ASG commander Albader Parad appeared to
be in charge of the operation, and was indeed injured when
the AFP fired at him last month, but not incapacitated. For
his part, Tauxe was deeply appreciative the Mission’s support
and said he would keep us apprised of developments over the
weekend.

—————————–
REACTIONS TO LACABA’S RELEASE
—————————–

¶7. (C) Media reported Philippine officials’ predictably
positive reaction to Lacaba’s release. President Arroyo said
Lacaba’s release from captivity was an “answered prayer” and
validated the government’s policy of “dealing firmly with any
form of lawless behavior.” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde
said “after this, we have to deal more aggressively, more
decisively and more deeply with the issue of terrorism and
kidnapping,” and hoped the remaining hostages could be
released as early as next week. Separately, National Security
Adviser Norberto Gonzales said he expected the crisis to be
resolved “in a few days.”

¶8. (C) Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said government
forces will remain in position as long as the two other
hostages are still in the hands of the ASG. He said the
release of one of the hostages was an indication of
willingness to release the others. “Our focus is trying to
make sure these kidnappers will get back in the direction of
negotiations.” Defense Secretary Teodoro stressed that
government policy on the situation is to ensure the safety of
the hostages and to avoid “precipitous action” that would
endanger their lives. Defending the declaration of a state
of emergency in Sulu, Teodoro said it was a “valid exercise
of power by the local executives as part of the effort to
address a local situation.”
KENNEY

   

 

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