Press Release
May 11, 2009

ICRC exec cites Gordon's efforts in Sulu kidnapping crisis

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has commended the efforts exerted by Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) Chairman and Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon in securing the release of the ICRC workers abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.

In his speech before the Governing Board of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Paris, France last May 4, ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger said Gordon is providing invaluable support to the ICRC in managing the painful experience.

"We have many common challenges to meet where we can and should support each other. And there are encouraging examples. Let's take security of humanitarian personnel in the field, especially in the framework of armed conflict," he said.

"We are living the painful experience in the Philippines where one staff member remains hostage. We are managing the situation as well as we can with the invaluable support of the Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross society engaged tirelessly alongside the ICRC," he added.

On Jan. 15 of this year, the Abu Sayyaf abducted ICRC workers Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni near the provincial jail in Jolo, Sulu, where they had just come from an inspection of a humanitarian project.

After more than three months of holding the three captive, the Abu Sayyaf threatened to behead one of the three ICRC workers unless a total withdrawal of troops from certain areas in Sulu took place.

Early on into the kidnapping crisis, the commander of the Abu Sayyaf group holding the ICRC workers hostage has established contact with the PNRC chairman.

Gordon talked to the Abu Sayyaf to ensure that communication lines are open and to establish a way of getting proof of life.

He also talked to the hostages, to assure them somehow that the Red Cross family is working and praying for their safe and immediate release.

The Abu Sayyaf released Lacaba on April 2 and Notter on April 18. However, Vagni, who needs to undergo surgical procedures to treat his hernia which is making it difficult for him to walk, has yet to be released by his abductors.

For his part, Gordon welcomed the citation and at the same time gave assurance that the PNRC is exerting all efforts to secure Vagni's safe release from the hands of his captors.

"We are doing all efforts necessary to help in securing our colleague's release. We have also appealed to everyone to continue praying for him. Our efforts and our prayers will not stop until Vagni is safely returned to his family," he said.

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