Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN
The Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian hostage Robert Hall to embarrass incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, according to the spokesperson of the notorious bandit group.
"This is for Duterte, the new President. This is for you to know what we will do to the Canadian,” Abu Raami, the spokesperson, said on Monday.
An hour after the phone interview with the Inquirer, Raami announced that the Abu Sayyaf executed Hall because the 600 million Philippine pesos (US$13 million) it demanded as ransom for his release had not been delivered before the 3pm deadline.
Another Canadian, John Ridsdel, was beheaded by the kidnappers on April 25 in Sulu province, where he, along with Hall and his partner, Filipino Maritess Flor, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad were brought by armed men who raided an exclusive marina in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte province on September 21 last year.
Sekkingstad, Flor and Dutch Ewold Horn are among seven hostages still being held by the Abu Sayyaf bandits.
In Manila, President Benigno Aquino III informed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the latest killing in a late-night call on Monday, soon after the government verified Hall’s death.
Aquino discussed how government forces were dealing with the Abu Sayyaf bandits who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, according to well-placed sources.
“We strongly condemn the brutal and senseless murder of Robert Hall, a Canadian national, after being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu for the past nine months,” Aquino said in a statement.
Trudeau maintained that despite the deaths of two Canadian hostages, his government would not give in to demands of paying ransom to terrorist groups, like the Abu Sayyaf.
“I want to reiterate that terrorist hostage-takings only fuel more violence and instability. Canada will not give into their fear-mongering tactics and despicable attitude toward the suffering of others,” he said in a statement.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, confirmed on Tuesday that a severed head found dumped beside Jolo Cathedral in Sulu was Hall’s after comparing it to videos and photos of the hostage.
The head was placed inside a black trash bag left by two young men on board a motorcycle along Sanchez Street, 1.7 kilometers away from Camp Teodulfo Bautista, home of the 2nd Marine Brigade, in the vicinity of Plaza Rizal around 9:05 p.m. on Monday, according to Supt. Junpikar Sittin, Jolo police chief.
Raami said the beheading was intended for Duterte, the tough-talking mayor of Davao City who is to formally assume the presidency in two weeks after winning in the May 9 elections.
“You promised [Trudeau] that you will get them [hostages] alive and that what happened to Ridsdel will not be repeated,” he said in Filipino. “Let’s see if you will not be embarrassed.”
Duterte said in a press conference in May in Davao City that he had apologized to Trudeau for Ridsdel’s death. “We will try our very best to see to it that nothing of this nature will happen again,” he recalled telling the Canadian leader.
The incoming president has not spoken to journalists for almost two weeks since his aides imposed a media policy that his statements would only be coursed through government information networks.
“I think the concern about the Abu Sayyaf should be addressed to the present administration because he is not yet the President,” Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, told reporters at the Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City.
“What I know is President-elect Duterte will not tolerate or condone the illegality in this country. He will do everything in this power to stop all these … . That’s his commitment, to stop all these cases of criminality,” Panelo added.
The incoming national security adviser, Hermogenes Esperon, said in Manila that the Duterte administration would “take a stronger action against lawlessness in the south.”
“We cannot allow this situation to continue, this should end once and for all,” Esperon told Reuters.
Malacañang extended its sympathy and condolences to Hall’s family.
“We truly regret that our people’s cherished tradition of extending gracious hospitality toward foreign nationals has been marred by a small band of criminals whose despicable actions have been abetted by the extortion of ransom from their previous victims,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message.
Coloma thanked the Canadian government and people “for their steadfast support and understanding which has been extremely helpful in our determined efforts to end this decades-old problem.”
For the past two months, he said the military and police had been conducting operations that “degraded the capability of our enemies and limited their movements.”
On Monday afternoon, the President met with his Cabinet security cluster to receive updates from Jolo, canceling his attendance at the launch of a call center facility in Pasay City.
The recovered head was flown to Manila on Tuesday and turned over to the Philippine National Police’s crime laboratory for forensic examination.
Tan said efforts were ongoing to recover the body of the victim.
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