Defense chief against amnesty for ASG

July 15, 2009 9:15 am 

MANILA, July 15 — The Department of National Defense on Wednesday does not favor giving amnesty to the members of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf responsible for a number of high-profile kidnappings and bombings in the country.

In an interview with reporters in Camp Aguinaldo, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said it will be an unwise decision to give amnesty to the terrorists, adding "we might as well give similar reprieves to other criminals like bank robbers and drug traffickers."

On Tuesday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that Malacanang is seriously considering an amnesty with the Abu Sayyaf following the release of their Italian captive, Eugenio Vagni, last Sunday in Sulu.

The proposal to declare amnesty was suggested by Sen. Richard Gordon, who is also the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. Gordon has had communication with the Abu Sayyaf during the captivity of Vagni and his two colleagues from International Committee of the Red Cross.

“Probably it would be unwise to consider amnesty for the Abu Sayyaf at this time. Why? Because, number one, we are in the midst of law enforcement operations, not for trivial crimes or politically motivated crimes but for heinous crimes with a profit motive,” said Teodoro.

“They have done so much damage knowingly to the country and to the people of Sulu. I feel that the advantages of any amnesty are far, far, far outweighed by the need to enforce the law in a consistent and firm manner,” he added.

Teodoro said any talk about amnesty for the Abu SAyyaf at this time “would be a serious blow to our counter terrorism efforts.”

“And it would send a wrong signal not merely to potential law breakers in this country but to the international community that we are not able to deal with severe demonstrations of criminality and terrorism,” he added.

Teodoro said he is optimistic that the security forces can end the Abu Sayyaf menace especially with the assistance of the community.

The defense chief said the government should not even consider an amnesty with the Abu Sayyaf even in the future. “We should make a distinction because if we give amnesty to the Abu Sayyaf, we might as well give amnesty to (people involved in) bank robberies, drugs, and other common crimes. There is no distinction anymore,” he said.

Teodoro said that while he is against amnesty with the Abu Sayyaf, he welcomes the surrender of the members of the group.

“It is an extremely wrong decision if we even are to consider amnesty for them but this does not mean to say that we will not accept their surrenders. Very well, lay down their arms, we will accept their surrenders although they have to face what they have done. I mean that's the best thing for them to do,” he added. (PNA)

DCT/VR

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