Arroyo says no ransom to release hostages
MANILA: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo reiterated her stance that the government will not pay ransom to free two American hostages who on Monday began their second year as captives of Muslim guerrillas linked to Osama bin Laden.
“The government won’t pay ransom. I would rather use the money to alleviate the living conditions of the communities there than pay ransom, because the fight against terrorism is parallel to the fight against poverty,” Arroyo said in her weekly radio programme.
“And the reason that terrorists nest there is because that is one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines.”
Arroyo was responding to local newspaper reports that National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in March played an intermediary role in handing over $1 million in ransom to free US missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham.
However the money, raised by the couple’s friends and families, never reached the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas, the reports said. NBI Director Reynaldo Wycoco and Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, in separate local radio interviews, each denied any knowledge of the supposed payoff.
Martin, 42, and Gracia 43, have been the longest-held foreign captives in the Philippines since Muslim separatists began seizing hostages in the 1970s to press for an Islamic state in the south of the mainly Catholic
former US colony.
While some have been killed, including an American seized with the Burnhams on May 27 last year from a Philippine island resort, most hostages have been released, usually after ransom was paid. —Reuters