Sep 132014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA812.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA812
2009-04-17 08:56
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

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DE RUEHML #0812/01 1070856
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 170856Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3842
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME IMMEDIATE 0303
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA IMMEDIATE 2261
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000812

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/17/2019
TAGS: KISL MOPS PGOV PINR PREL PTER RP
SUBJECT: RED CROSS HOSTAGES: PURSUING NEGOTIATIONS, BUT PREPARING FOR WORST

REF: A. MANILA 727: AUTHORITIES SECURE RELEASE OF ONE
ICRC HOSTAGE
¶B. MANILA 703: GOVERNMENT REJECTS TERRORISTS DEMANDS

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney; Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Philippine government is continuing
efforts to negotiate the safe release of the two remaining
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers
abducted January 15 by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists.
Government officials underscored that force would only be
used as a last resort, but as the crisis entered its fourth
month, Philippine military and police special forces stepped
up efforts to locate and isolate the kidnappers in case the
last-ditch talks fall apart. Muslim religious leaders met
with the lead ASG kidnapper, and succeeded in passing
medicine to one hostage, but failed to win the release of
either kidnap victim. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto
Romulo on April 17 outlined to Ambassador the government’s
frustration at lack of progress in negotiations, as the armed
forces chief requested continued U.S. intelligence assistance
to pinpoint the hostages’ location. The Ambassador urged
Secretary Romulo and other officials to make every effort to
ensure the safety of the hostages. END SUMMARY.

NO RANSOM, NO WITHDRAWAL
————————

¶2. (U) Although ASG terrorists released Filipina ICRC
hostage Mary Jean Lacaba on April 2 (reftel A), two other
ICRC workers kidnapped January 15 on Jolo Island, Andreas
Notter of Switzerland and Italian Eugenio Vagni, remain in
the hands of the ASG. As the Philippine military’s “tactical
pause” for the Easter holiday entered its second week, local
and national officials continued their efforts to negotiate a
peaceful resolution to the hostage crisis, most recently
enlisting the aid of local Muslim clerics to talk with the
ASG terrorists who are moving around the island of Jolo to
evade Philippine security forces. In an April 16 discussion
on the margins of opening ceremonies for the 2009 Balikatan
bilateral military exercise, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen.
Alexander Yano told acting DCM that five Ulama (Muslim
clerics) had been engaged for several days with the ASG
kidnappers on behalf of the hostages, but had failed to win
their release. But Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno on April
16 cited as a “breakthrough” the ASG’s apparent willingness
to allow the Ulama to pass on medicine for 62-year-old
Italian hostage Eugenio Vagni, who is reportedly suffering
from a hernia. Puno optimistically offered that there was
hope so long as communication continued.

¶3. (C) In an April 17 breakfast meeting with Philippine
Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, the Ambassador stressed
U.S. concern for the safety of the hostages, and urged the
government to move with utmost caution and care if it became
necessary to rescue the hostages from imminent harm.
Secretary Romulo expressed frustration at the lack of
progress in negotiations for the hostages’ release, and said
that the government was studying “every available option.”
That sentiment was echoed by General Yano, who stated
unequivocally that the Philippine government would continue
to explore every available avenue to resolve the crisis
peacefully, but was nevertheless preparing other options in
the event negotiations failed to produce results. Yano
requested additional U.S. intelligence assistance that would
permit the AFP to locate and track the hostages and their
kidnappers.

“PARTNERS IN COUNTERTERRORISM”
——————————

¶4. (C) In a further reflection of the deep frustration on the
part of the government, Secretary of National Defense Gilbert
Teodoro reiterated the Philippine government’s policy of no
ransom payments for hostages. Calling the kidnapping of the
three ICRC workers “a brazen criminal act that will not go
unpunished,” Teodoro said, “Our policy is crystal clear; our
government will not pay ransom, as this will only encourage
more abductions in the future.” Addressing the continuing
threat from the ASG, Teodoro said that the Philippine
government is determined to restore law and order in the Sulu
Archipelago, and will “bring the Abu Sayyaf Group to

MANILA 00000812 002 OF 002

justice.” Secretary Teodoro told the Ambassador that the
Philippine government categorically rejected ASG demands that
all Philippine troops be pulled back to their barracks in
Jolo City, and added that President Arroyo had instructed him
to keep the Ambassador apprised of all developments, “since
we are partners in the counterterrorism effort” (reftel B).

COMMENT
——-

¶5. (C) While the Philippine government has shown maximum
restraint in pursuing a negotiated solution through a variety
of actors, as the hostage crisis enters its fourth month and
the health of the hostages continues to deteriorate, key
government and military officials now believe they have
little choice but to seriously consider a military operation
to bring the situation to a swift and final conclusion.
Lines of communication remain open, however, and there is yet
hope that a military solution will prove unnecessary. Post
will remain in close touch with key officials and will
continue to emphasize the paramount importance of the safety
of the hostages and, once the crisis ends, the need for more
sustained and accelerated action to remove the last vestiges
of the ASG from Jolo with finality, so that a similar
situation does not reoccur.
KENNEY

   

 

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