Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA717.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA717
2009-04-02 08:29
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO7336
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0717/01 0920829
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 020829Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3747
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0298
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2257
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000717

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV MOPS PTER PINR KISL RP
SUBJECT: PHILIPPINE TROOPS PURSUING ICRC KIDNAPPERS

REF: A. MANILA 703-PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT REJECTS
TERRORISTS’ DEMANDS
¶B. MANILA 686-RED CROSS KIDNAPPERS INCREASE DEMANDS

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

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador spoke with Philippine
Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro April 2 to
discuss the situation involving the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf
Group (ASG) on Jolo Island. Referring to unconfirmed press
reports that Swiss hostage Andreas Notter had been shot,
Teodoro assured the Ambassador the government had no
information to support this claim and the Philippine
commander on the ground believed the hostages to be alive.
Citing on-going operations, Teodoro said that the military
had not located the kidnappers or hostages, coming up with
“two dry holes,” and but underscored the military was being
extremely careful and moving very cautiously with the safety
of the hostages in mind. The Ambassador emphasized the high
degree of international interest in the situation and that
every effort should be made to secure the hostages’ safe
release. Teodoro said the Philippine government was doing
everything it could to act prudently, but had concluded there
was nothing to be gained from negotiating with “irrational
terrorists,” a sentiment echoed by Foreign Secretary Romulo
during lunch with the Ambassador April 2. Separately, ICRC
Philippines Chief Jean-Daniel Tauxe told the Ambassador he
had “more reason to be optimistic than pessimistic” by events
during the last 24 hours, acknowledging that the ICRC had no
confirmation on whether the hostages were dead or alive, but
believed the Philippine military was handling the situation
in a reassuring manner. END SUMMARY.

——————————————
PHILIPPINE MILITARY SEARCHING FOR HOSTAGES
——————————————

¶2. (C) Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro updated
the Ambassador April 2 on the International Committee of the
Red Cross (ICRC) hostages being held on Jolo Island by Abu
Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists. Teodoro said that after the
ASG terrorists failed to live up to their pledge to release a
hostage March 21 after Philippine troops loosened their
cordon around the terrorists’ camp (ref B), the military had
been ordered to close in around the ASG again. Led by two
U.S.-trained Light Reaction Companies, the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP) had moved back into the four square
kilometer area in which the ASG had been holding the hostages
(ref A). According to Teodoro, the AFP’s initial searches on
the night of April 1-2 had turned up “two dry holes,” and
commanders suspected the ASG may have moved from the jungle
into caves that dot the area. Determining the location of
the kidnappers and the hostages was complicated, he said, by
the fact the AFP had disabled cellular communications in the
area to prevent the ASG from contacting outside audiences.
Referring to unconfirmed media reports of Swiss hostage
Andreas Notter being shot by the ASG, Teodoro said there was
no indication the reports were true.

—————–
CAUTIOUS APPROACH
—————–

¶3. (C) Teodoro emphasized that the Philippine military was
being cautious in its operations to try to afford the
hostages maximum safety. However, he reiterated that the
government did not believe the ASG had any intent of honoring
agreements regarding the hostages and had proven in the past
to be capable of vicious, mindless acts of terrorism against
civilians. The safety of the citizens of Jolo Island was at
stake if the AFP withdrew back to its garrisons on the island
as demanded by the kidnappers, Teodoro said, and that was
unacceptable. The Philippine government now has clearly
delineated the lines of authority for dealing with the
kidnappers, and Sulu Governor Abdelsakur Tan is the primary
interlocutor on Jolo Island, with Teodoro and Interior
Secretary Ronaldo Puno handling the issue at a policy level
within the Cabinet.

——————————-
ICRC LOOKING FOR POSITIVE SIGNS
——————————-

MANILA 00000717 002 OF 002

¶4. (C) In an April 2 conversation with Ambassador, ICRC
Philippines Chief Jean-Daniel Tauxe said the ICRC had “more
reason to be optimistic than pessimistic” by events during
the last 24 hours. Tauxe acknowledged that the ICRC had no
confirmation on whether the hostages were dead or alive,
since all communications with the hostages had been severed.
However, given that the ASG camps had not been stormed and
that the ASG had made no announcements — something they are
prone to do in these situations — there was hope the
hostages were still unharmed. He explained that the ICRC
felt particularly well briefed about military operations, as
the military had allowed an ICRC official to follow events
from inside the Philippine military headquarters on Jolo
Island. Tauxe said he felt reassured by the manner in which
the military had handled the situation thus far, as it
clearly demonstrated the military’s desire to protect the
lives of the hostages, and praised Western Mindanao Command
chief LTG Nelson Allaga for being “extremely communicative”
about events on the ground.

————————-
MORE DISCIPLINED APPROACH
————————-

¶5. (C) Separately, Foreign Secretary Romulo told Ambassador
April 2 that the government had conducted intense cabinet
discussions on the need to balance its interest in saving the
hostages against acceding to the ASG,s demands that the
government abdicate control of Jolo. Pointing out the
government had shown exceptional restraint, Romulo observed
that many citizens had forgotten that the ASG is not a
reasonable organization, nor would it operate in good faith.
The Ambassador commended Romulo on the government’s more
disciplined and coordinated approach to a very delicate
situation and reiterated the USG’s deep concern about the
hostages’ safety.

——-
COMMENT
——-

¶6. (C) In a notable display of reasoned analysis, the lead
editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer took a harsh view
of the kidnappers and expressed deep sympathy for the victims
and the plight of government negotiators, a sign that even
among the jaded Philippine press, there was a stark
realization of the gravity of the hostage situation. Calling
the ASG a “cancer that remains malignant and unexcised,” the
editorial supported the government’s decision to prepare for
possible military operations to neutralize the kidnappers,
saying it would have been a “dereliction of duty” for the
military to agree to the ASG’s demand to withdraw. Such
commentary indicates that the Philippine public is coming to
accept that the tendency to seek an expedient end to
kidnapping by paying ransom only perpetuates the cycle of
violence in the southern Philippines. In midst of this
11-week hostage ordeal, the Philippine government appears to
have embraced a more coherent and carefully coordinated
strategy. Once it is resolved, it remains to be seen whether
this high-profile kidnapping will be the watershed event that
moves the Philippine people to support more sustained action
against terrorists such as the ASG. END COMMENT.
KENNEY

   

 

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