DAVAO CITY—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered an all out offensive against the kidnappers of ABS-CBN senior reporter Ces Drilon, even as she vowed to crush the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) during her term.

“We should wipe out the Abu Sayyaf Group, once for all,” the President said twice at the Apo View Hotel yesterday; first, during the signing of the declaration of the merger between Lakas-CMD and the Kampi parties, and then during the announcement of the administration bet line-up in the upcoming polls in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

Arroyo said she has ordered an all out military offensive not only against the Abu Sayyaf, but also against the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) so that the government can finally “return Mindanao to its people,” she said.

Drilon was released before midnight on Tuesday after she, her cameraman Jimmy Encarnacion and Mindanao State University (MSU) Octavio Dinampo, were held for nine days by armed groups believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

Another ABS-CBN cameraman, Angelo Valderama, also abducted with Drilon, was released June 12.
Former Presidential spokesperson Ignacio Bunye doused off speculations that the government or the television station had paid a ransom to secure Drilon’s release, saying it has been a standing policy of the government not to pay any ransom to kidnappers.

Bunye, who talked to reporters before the arrival of Arroyo, said Drilon and company has been undergoing medical check up to make sure that they are not suffering from trauma after nine days with their abductors.

Arroyo was here for the signing of the merger declaration between the Lakas-CMD and the Kampi parties, which party officials claimed, will launch the candidacy of the President who will win in the 2010 elections.

Bunye said the early merger will ensure that the two parties will unite and agree to field only one candidate in the 2010 elections. He said that the policy of the merged party will be to field whoever within in the Lakas and Kampi members are incumbent. “We are going to follow the equity of the incumbent as the policy in the fielding of candidates for the party,” Bunye explained. He also said that both parties are forging their unity this early to iron out kinks and smoothen the existing rivalries in the local level.

Before proceeding to the Apo View hotel for the signing of the merger declaration and the announcement of the ARMM line up, Arroyo also visited the new Bankerohan bridge, which was completed just in time for the opening of classes.

Arroyo also lauded the AFP’s all out offensives in Surigao against the NPA, where the President said, the military has been “victorious.” “We are happy over the victory of our soldiers in Mindanao and we thank the East MinComm for the job well done,” Arroyo said.

The human rights group Karapatan, however, claimed that the military operations in Surigao has displaced hundreds of families. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)

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