ICRC workers' safety is paramount
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today asserted his rights to be involved in finding immediate resolution to the 68-day ordeal of the three International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) workers who were held captive in Sulu.
Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said he had to intervene in order to stave off the Abu Sayyaf's threat to behead one of his three ICRC colleagues when military troops attacked their captors' lair in broad daylight.
"We have to act firmly and carefully at all times. It is simply holding the best interest of our people, our colleagues in the Red Cross, the soldiers and the high interest of our country at hand," he said in an interview over ANC.
Gordon also serves as a governing board member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He is also vice chairman of the Senate national defense committee.
According to him, his intervention had thwarted not only the execution of one of his ICRC colleagues but also freed them from what he referred to as "immediate clear and present dangers" of attacks the military troops launched against their captors.
"After that attack on Monday, there was an immediate threat (to behead) and we had to act. The Abu Sayyaf talked to me, and I was told they were going to kill one of the hostages. That is when I acted," he added.
Gordon denied he had ordered, and much less insisted, the withdrawal of neither the military troops nor the civilian volunteer officers.
"I never advocated any withdrawal (of troops). In fact, I have always told them (military) to put enough pressure so they (Abu Sayyaf) will continue talking. The only time we asked the withdrawal is when there was imminent danger to life," he said.
ASG leader Albader Parad had originally agreed to release one of the hostages in exchange for the repositioning of the troops. However, the order to withdraw had already been carried out even before the agreement was settled.
As a result, the agreement was called off and the Abu Sayyaf instead asked to grab two-thirds of Jolo through the further withdrawal of the military, including civilian volunteers.
Gordon said it was never his intention to interfere with the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group but was only compelled because there were imminent dangers posed against the three ICRC workers.
"We are talking about lives here. We have to be very, very judicious. Thank God we were able to stave off the execution and we were able to talk with the hostages, finally we have proof of life and we were able to prevent further attacks," he said.