PHILIPPINES NEWS SERVICE — IT’S final. The government will wage an all-out war on the Abu Sayyaf Group not offer the bandits amnesty.
Malacañang arrived at this decision amid the barrage of criticism against the proposal, saying the government could not grant amnesty to common criminals “especially those as brutal as the Abu Sayyaf.”
“This decision was arrived at after careful study, after giving due consideration to popular calls for justice and retribution on one hand and to the equally pressing imperatives of peace and development in Mindanao on the other,” Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez, reading from a prepared statement, said.
“This decision not to grant amnesty is consistent with our position that such leniency should be extended only to those accused of political offenses, not common criminals,” Golez said.
“It’s all-out war against all terrorist groups,” he added when asked how the government would deal with the Abu Sayyaf.
He said Ermita authorized him to declare the Palace position after consulting with security experts and other concerned officials.
Golez clarified that the Palace did not support giving amnesty to the Abu Sayyaf which Sen. Richard Gordon proposed following the release of kidnapped Italian aid worker Eugenio Vagni. “This is the first official statement of the Palace,” he said.
Ermita earlier raised the possibility of granting Abu Sayyaf amnesty but said it will have to undergo tight scrutiny by the Cabinet cluster on security.
The proposal drew flak from almost all Cabinet secretaries, security officials, the military and lawmakers, who said it is like giving the Abu Sayyaf a “prize” for their criminality. The police and military have been running after the Abu Sayyaf which gained notoriety through kidnappings, bombings and beheadings.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno agreed the dreaded Abu Sayaff cannot be easily forgiven.
“After all the hardships in dealing with the beheadings, killings, kidnappings and terror acts, eh forget forget na lang ba, hindi naman siguro ganyan,” Puno said in a press conference yesterday morning.
Instead, the DILG chief said he will order the Philippine National Police to bolster the military’s intensified drive against the bandits.
Pointing out that the ASG is a perennial threat to national security, Puno said the PNP should pursue an all-out drive for peace and order.
The ASG was held responsible for the kidnapping of three International Committee of the Red Cross volunteers.
Vagni was the last to be released after being held captive for about six months.
The ASG, according to Puno, has yet to release a teacher whom they also held hostage for several days already.