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Aquino Won't Pay Muslims to Release Missionary, Nuns : Says Government Will Not Submit to 'Blackmail'

July 15, 1986|United Press International

MANILA — Declaring that her government "cannot be blackmailed," President Corazon Aquino today rejected a demand for $100,000 ransom by the Muslim kidnapers of an American missionary and 10 Filipino nuns and ordered the army to resolve the crisis.

Aquino called the kidnapings of the Order of the Carmelite nuns and Protestant missionary Brian Lawrence in the southern Philippines "a great disservice to our people . . . ostensibly to attain political ends."

Strife-Torn Island

The nuns and Lawrence, of Madison, Wis., were abducted in the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi, provincial capital of Lanao del Sur on the strife-torn island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

"The government cannot be blackmailed nor will it adopt a policy of appeasement toward kidnapers, who have abused the military's attitude of tolerance," Aquino said.

"Now, it is the army's turn to act decisively and settle once and for all Lanao's problem of warlordism and banditry," she said. "This festering problem has gone too far and for too long."

Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile, in a letter to Aquino, revealed today that the kidnapers were demanding $100,000 in ransom, full implementation of an agreement on autonomy for the minority Muslim population on Mindanao and the inclusion of autonomy in a new constitution.

Negotiations Under Way

Enrile said negotiations were under way between the kidnapers and Lanao del Sur Gov. Saidamen Pangarungan, local mayors, military authorities and Roman Catholic Church leaders.

Military authorities previously said the abductions of the nuns, taken from their convent in Marawi on Friday night, and Lawrence, dragged from his apartment 24 hours later, were unrelated but politically motivated incidents.

It was not immediately clear whether the demands applied to both abductions.

Enrile said the whereabouts of Lawrence, a 30-year-old member of New Jersey-based International Missions Inc., were unknown. However, he said the kidnaping was linked to the abduction last month of French missionary Michel de Gigord, the Mindanao State University chaplain.

Released After 21 Days

De Gigord, who was released after 21 days, was kidnaped by a group identified with former Mindanao State University dormitory manager Ismael Dimaporo, a nephew of Muslim political warlord Mohammad Ali Dimaporo.

Ali Dimaporo, whose private army has been ordered disarmed by Aquino, was ousted as governor of Lanao del Sur during a purge of officials loyal to deposed President Ferdinand E. Marcos. He denied involvement in De Gigord's kidnaping.

The ransom demand, Enrile told Aquino, was passed to a government negotiator by the leader of the kidnapers, Aragasi Pasandalan, a former employee of the National Food Authority. Enrile also identified Ismael Dimaporo and the son of a renegade major of the Philippine army as being involved in the abductions.

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