Sunday, October 19, 2014

Philippines: The Critical Factor is That the German Hostages Are Back in German Hands

According to http://www.philstar.comthe hunt for members of the Abu Sayyaf will continue despite the release of their two German hostages, Malacañang said yesterday as it reiterated its no-ransom policy amid claims from the bandits that they freed their captives after receiving ransom money.

“With the release from captivity of the two German nationals, our security forces will continue efforts to stem the tide of criminality perpetrated by bandit elements,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.
Coloma said they have yet to get the full details of the hostages’ release, but emphasized the no-ransom policy of the government remains in force.
An official who declined to be named said “two foreign nationals escorted the money” contained in several black bags unloaded from a private plane that landed in Zamboanga City.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over dzRB President Aquino was happy to receive the news since his primary concern was the safety of the hostages.
The two German hostages, Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen, were released in Patikul, Sulu at 2050 hours on Friday (October 17).  
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1Valte said the President immediately asked about the condition of the two German nationals and was informed that they would undergo medical check up and be transported to Zamboanga City where they would be taken care of before being flown to Manila.
Valte said it was good that the victims were turned over to the German Embassy so they could be reunited with their families “soonest.”
Valte said it was not clear yet if the two Germans would pay a courtesy call on Aquino. “We understand that the first concern for them really is to receive medical attention, and I’m quite sure that they would want to get in touch with their families given the long separation,” she said.
COMMENT: If I've learned anything about crisis public relations in roughly 40 years, it is this:

"The more you tell the public media, the more they can potentially convert into narrative that rarely serves any governments' interests."

Abigail Valte said she couldn’t tell if payment of ransom--from P60 million to P250 million based on various accounts--had indeed prompted the release of the hostages. 

ASG spokesman Abu Rami said ransom was paid for the release of the Germans. “Walang labis walang kulang (No more no less),” he said.
“The long-standing policy of the Philippine government is that we do not engage in the payment of ransom. Second, I think that’s a question that you can ask the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) primarily because they have more of the details and they provided support to the law enforcement operation,” Valte said.
“As long as there are still people in their custody, then the operations will continue,” Valte said.
Asked about kidnapping still being a lucrative business of the ASG in cahoots with local officials, Valte said “that is something we cannot overlook.” She stressed it is a matter better left to the AFP and the Philippine National Police to investigate.
“Of course, they are the ones conducting operations on the ground, the two institutions will both be in a better position to assess that particular piece of information,” Valte said.

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