Press Release
September 16, 2008


Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today condemned the latest kidnapping of five humanitarian aid workers, two of whom remain in the hands of their captors, even as he called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to exhaust all possible means to effect their swift and safe rescue.

Gordon issued the strongest condemnation in the wake of reports that two aid workers - Esperanza Hupida and Millet Mendoza - are still being held hostage by an unidentified armed group in Basilan. The two hostages belong to the Christian Children's Fund and the Nagdilaab Foundation, a Christian-Muslim charity.

"We deplore in the strictest sense this latest kidnapping incident in Basilan. Very clearly, our law enforcement authorities are being challenged by lawless elements who are now exploiting the security vacuum created by the protracted conflict with lawless MILF groups. These hardened criminals should brought to justice without mercy," he said.

"What is even more unfortunate is the fact that these criminal elements are victimizing humanitarian aid workers who just wanted to help the families displaced by the protracted conflict in Mindanao. The challenge for our authorities is to work doubly hard in ferreting out the hostage takers," he added.

Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, also called on the AFP and the PNP to intensify security measures they provide to aid workers in Mindanao, saying that their endangerment may hamper efforts to deliver needed aid to affected communities.

"International Humanitarian Law should be strictly adhered to by all parties in this conflict. The safety of aid workers as non-combatants should be ensured at all times and by all means. It will not help either side of this conflict to have the blood of non-combatants on their hands," he said.

The two aid workers kidnapped in Basilan were part of a group of five that were abducted last Monday. The three identified as Ludivina Dekit, Romy de los Reyes, and Jun Estandarte were reportedly released without ransom.

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