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Sayyaf stays beheading after meeting with Robin

- Roel Pareño -

MT. PUNOH MAHAJI, Sumisip, Basilan - Movie "Bad Boy" Robin Padilla saved yesterday the lives of nine male hostages being held in this mountain hideout by the Abu Sayyaf.

The terrorists decided to forgo their ritual beheading of hostages after Padilla, whose Muslim name is Abdulaziz, arrived in Sitio Coop near the boundary of this town and Sumisip with members of the government's Crisis Management Committee.

A Vatican representative, a group of ulamas (Muslim religious leaders) and journalists were also in Padilla's party.

"The 72-hour ultimatum is over. We already met our brother, Abdulaziz, to bring our message to the national government," said Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Asmad Allayuddin.

Earlier, the Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead their male hostages, one of them a Catholic priest, unless they were granted a televised meeting with Padilla.

Padilla and his party were met by Allayuddin shortly after 2 p.m. yesterday.

"Inshallah (God willing), all the hostages would be freed," Padilla told reporters in Filipino upon his arrival here. "I hope this problem will end and we would be able to free all the hostages."

The negotiators, who had to trek through crisscrossing rivers under heavy rain to reach the Abu Sayyaf hideout, brought at least six sacks of rice, canned goods, foodstuff, medicine, and clothes for the hostages.

Upon meeting Padilla, Salayuddin assured him and members of the Basilan crisis management committee that they would be safe during the negotiations.

Padilla landed at the airport here yesterday, 21 hours ahead of the guerrillas' deadline for talks to end the 23-day hostage crisis.

"Please pray for us and for the success of our mission," he said in an interview over dzBB radio. "Christians and Muslims should not fight each other."

Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora said Padilla will not be the chief negotiator, but that he will join as a member of the panel that would talk with the kidnappers.

President Estrada said the negotiators will work under the supervision of National Security Adviser Alexander Aguirre, who also flew here yesterday.

The Chief Executive, who had earlier rejected Padilla's participation in the talks, warned the Abu Sayyaf that the government will not give them mercy if any of the hostages are harmed.

"If they harm or kill even one of the hostages... the military, with its full force will go after them," he said.

Other members of the negotiating team are: Vatican representative Fr. Nestor Banga; Ustadz Abdulla Hamja, the Grand Mufti of Basilan; ulamas Ustadz Hussein Manatad, Ustadz Said Balahim, Ustadz Haer Muctarm Hadji Miraji Juani; and a representative of the Office of Muslim Affairs.

At the Senate, three senators cautioned against clothing Padilla with official powers to make commitments to the Abu Sayyaf in behalf of the government.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the government was right in entrusting the actual negotiations to the local government officials and other knowledgeable people who now comprise the provincial crisis management committee.

He said it was all right for Padilla to assist the government but that he must limit himself to the role of facilitator or communication link with the Abu Sayyaf.

On the other hand, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said all efforts must be undertaken to ensure the safety of the hostages, and that the assistance of Padilla might be of help.

He said President Estrada should order an all-out war against the Abu Sayyaf the moment the hostages are harmed.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said the negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf were being saddled by the numerous voices being aired from various government sectors.

The government should speak with one voice on the Mindanao problem, he added. - With Efren Danao, Reuters, AFP

A VATICAN

ABDULAZIZ

ABU

ABU ASMAD

ABU SAYYAF

GOVERNMENT

HOSTAGES

PADILLA

PRESIDENT ESTRADA

SAYYAF

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