President Aquino almost declared martial law in the province of Sulu in a last-ditch attempt to neutralize the notorious Abu Sayyaf group.
The President, however, said he decided against the martial law imposition last month since there was no guarantee of positive results.
Aquino made the revelation about his martial law option during his heavily-guarded visit to Jolo, Sulu, to supervise intensified government operations against the Abu Sayyaf elements.
The presidential visit to Jolo came two days after Abu Sayyaf made good on their threat to behead another Canadian hostage after no ransom was paid.
“Yes, in Sulu in particular,” the commander-in-chief said in a press conference when asked he considered martial law against the Abu Sayyaf.
“May assessment na ang dami nating pwersang gagamitin just to implement martial law which might…Walang guarantee na magkakaroon ng positive results.. Baka magkaroon pa ng negative results, baka magkaroon ng dagdag na simpatya sa mga kalaban,” he added.
Asked when he considered the martial law rule in Sulu, Aquino said the idea was tackled in the “last three weeks” as government forces were closing in on the Abu Sayyaf criminals.
In the same press conference, the President said he has offered the country’s apology to the Canadian government following the beheading of two Canadian hostages by the Abu Sayyaf group.
Aquino said he talked to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to explain the government’s efforts to run after the Abu Sayyaf and the challenges along the way. He said Trudeau understands the government’s predicament in addressing the “complex” problem of Abu Sayyaf group.
Aquino has also reached out to Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg about the government’s efforts to recover their national taken by the Abu Sayyaf.
Both countries have offered assistance to help the Philippine government address the security situation in the south, Aquino said.
The President, meantime, admitted that the pursuit against the Abu Sayyaf was not easy.
Aquino said military and police forces are “performing well” but he understands the difficulty in running after the ASG elements since they have intimate knowledge of the terrain including the “triple-canopy jungle.” It was not also helpful that there are some ASG sympathizers in the local community, Aquino added.
“It is not easy to find informants. Even the local and foreign rewards for the Abu Sayyaf rebels have been increased but nobody seems to be tempted probably because they get a portion of the previous ransom payments,” Aquino said in Filipino.
Nonetheless, the President assured that government would continue to pursue without letup the Abu Sayyaf and safely recover other hostages. (GENALYN D. KABILING)