ZAMBOANGA - Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has sought the help of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari to negotiate for the safe release of the three foreign nationals and a Filipina abducted in Ocean View Resort on Samal Island, Davao del Norte, a top MNLF official said Tuesday.
MNLF Islamic Command Council chairman Habib Mudjahab Hashim said Duterte personally talked to Misuari over the phone and asked for his intervention in a bid to rescue the captives in the hands of alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The military is checking reports that Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marites Flor, Hall's girlfriend, were taken to Sulu province and are being held by members of the Abu Sayyaf.
According to Hashim, Misuari acceded to Duterte's request and is now talking to his commanders and followers to draw out their plan.
Hashim said Misuari can use his influence in Sulu to negotiate with the abductors for the safe release of the four victims.
"Mayor Duterte, I was informed, got in touch with brother Nur, and brother Nur is now convening his commanders in Sulu for whatever decisions that will be made, but indications are brother Nur will listen to Duterte. I think he will help in the possible safe release of the hostages," said Hashim.
He said Misuari and Duterte have established a good rapport with each other over the past few years.
"We believe that Duterte, being a friend and a man of peace, I think he can do a lot, and it's only him among the leaders of Mindanao that brother Nur would listen most," Hashim said.
(READ: Duterte offers self in place of kidnap victims)
Aside from Duterte, Hashim said former Cabinet Secretary Jess Dureza also called him seeking his help to try to convince Misuari to assist in the rescue efforts.
Hashim believes Dureza and Duterte have been working hand-in-hand for the safe release of the captives.
APPEAL TO AFP
The known Misuari ally, however, has one appeal to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Hashim said the intensified military operation in some areas of Sulu province should be deferred temporarily, so as not to put the lives of the hostages at risk.
He also expressed concern over the possibility that some MNLF members would be caught in the crossfire or might be targeted in the law enforcement operation of the government forces.
"I'm appealing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, if possible, pending the actual negotiations with the possible holders of the hostages, ay sana ay i-hold muna yung military operation, because that will put the lives of the hostages at risk, and civilians also as usual are the victims of military operation in Sulu," he said.
(READ: Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought)
The commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado said there will be no let-up in their law enforcement operation in a bid to rescue the hostages.
He reiterated that the target of their operations are members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and not the MNLF.
Meanwhile, Malacañang said it welcomes the assistance offered by the MNLF.
"Ang tulong ng mga organisasyon o indibidwal sa paglutas sa krimen ay tinatanggap ng pamahalaan. Mainam na matunton ang kinaroroonan ng mga nagsagawa nito," Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said. -- With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News