A group from Jolo, Sulu urged Wednesday the Senate to investigate the possible links of local government officials in Sulu province to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Speaking in a press conference at the Abreeza Mall here, Professor Octavio Dinampo of the Save Sulu Movement (SSM) said “the people in his province have been hostaged by the ASG for the past 10 years now.”
“Terrorism is a menace that is threatening all of us in the country, not only in Sulu,” said Dinampo, a professor at the Mindanao State University in Sulu.
“We want the Senate to investigate the backers of ASG, including politicians and businessmen in our area,” he said.
He added that “Sulu nowadays is being controlled by one political clan,” though he did not elaborate on the matter.
Dinampo, who was once abducted by the Abu Sayyaf, called on the government and and private groups to help address the root cause of the extremism in Sulu, noting that the ASG cannot be defeated by military actions alone.
In a separate statement, SSM said that the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, after 10 months into office, has yet to demonstrate and implement new and effective strategies to wipe out the ASG in Sulu and prevent its menace from spreading into the other parts of the country.
“Despite the declaration of the State of Lawlessness and the augmentation of military and police forces to reach 10,000 in Sulu, the ASG is still on a kidnapping rampage and even expanding its target to as far as the peaceful and tourist-rich island of Bohol,” the SSM said.
Military offensives against the ASG are not enough to neutralize the terrorist group as the real situation in Sulu “unfolds a totally different story of kidnapping becoming a cottage industry with local officials acting as promoters, brokers and protectors,” the group said.
Aside from calling for an investigation, SMM also asked Congress to criminalize the payment of ransom.
“It is sickening to keep on hearing the “no ransom” policy when everyone knows too well that ransom is actually being paid and brokered by the local government officials, thus perpetuating the business of the ASG,” the group said.