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Gov’t denies paying ransom for freedom of Norwegian

The government did not pay any ransom to the Abu Sayyaf Group in exchange for the supposed freedom of a foreign hostage, Malacañang clarified yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the ransom was apparently raised by “third parties” and “not from the government.”

“The government has also a no ransom policy,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing. He said the government does not encourage ransom payment for hostages but “if they make negotiations, that is their negotiation.”

President Duterte earlier revealed that the Abu Sayyaf Group received a R50-million ransom payment for Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad. The bandit group postponed the release of the hostage because it supposedly wanted more money and the President evaded media queries on who paid the ransom for the foreign hostage.

Sekkingstad is the remaining captive from the group taken by the Abu Sayyaf in Samal Island, Davao del Norte last September. Two other foreigners were beheaded after no ransom was paid. The Filipino hostage Marites Flor, on the other hand, regained her freedom last June after nine months of captivity.

Duterte has ruled out any peace negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf and directed the military to destroy the bandit group. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)