The government remains optimistic in neutralizing the Abu Sayyaf Group, as well as in freeing its remaining hostages before President Benigno S. Aquino III steps down from office in 52 days, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said.
Secretary Coloma said the administration is determined to achieve this goal but declined to give specific forecast or target dates, given the sensitivity of the combat operations.
"Sabihin na lang natin na hanggang sa kahuli-hulihang minuto ng administrasyong ito ay gagawin ang nararapat, gagawin ang pinakamahusay, at pagkatapos ay isasalin ang responsibilidad, dahil ito naman ay 24 by 7 by 52 -- 24 hours, 7 days a week, 52 days," he said.
"Walang humpay dapat itong pagkilos na ito dahil ang ating tinutukoy ay ang kaligtasan at kapakanan ng mga mamamayang Pilipino laban sa mga pwersa na naghahasik ng ligalig, panganib at kamatayan."
Secretary Coloma noted that joint military and law enforcement operations are ongoing to free the hostages.
He however declined to give detailed information, given the sensitivity of the tactical operations.
"Pero makaka-tiyak ang ating mga kababayan na buong tapang at buong sigasig na tinutugis ng mga pwersa ng Republika sa kanilang military at law enforcement operations ang mga kriminal at bandidong elemento na iyong nabanggit," he said.
The bandit group is holding a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino as hostages. A few weeks ago, the Islamist militants beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel after his family failed to meet their ransom demand. (PCOO News Release)