DAVAO CITY - President Rodrigo Duterte met Sunday evening with Kjartan Sekkingstad, the Norwegian national who was released by extremist group Abu Sayyaf in Sulu after his year-long captivity.
In a press conference following their meeting, Duterte thanked Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, and former Sulu Governor Sakur Tan for securing the release of Sekkingstad.
The President said that it was a long negotiation that fortunately ended with the release of the Norwegian hostage, as well as three other Indonesian kidnap victims.
"I was just directing the traffic on how to go about the job, and investing upon them the full authority to negotiate and see to it that nothing like this happens again," Duterte said.
Meanwhile, Sekkingstad expressed his gratitude towards both the Philippine and Norewegian governments.
Sekkingstad, the last of four hostages who were taken from a luxury resort in Samal Island last year, said that he is "happy to be alive and free."
"It's a beautiful feeling," he added.
The Abu Sayyaf had earlier beheaded two of the other hostages, namely Canadian nationals Robert Hall and John Ridsdel. Filipina Marites Flor was released in June.
Following the release of Sekkingstad and the other victims, the Philippine government said it did not pay the Abu Sayyaf group a ransom and was unaware of any payment made by other parties for the release of the victims.
"I would like to reiterate that the government maintains the no-ransom policy," Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said. "Now if there was a third party who made the payment, if it's the family (of the victim), we are not aware of that."
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, as well as the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Communications Chief Frode Anderson, also maintained that their respective governments adhere to a strict no-ransom policy.
The Abu Sayyaf, a ragtag group of several hundred gunmen, is notorious for ransoming off foreigners. It has also claimed responsibility for the worst terrorist attacks in the country including the firebombing of a ferry off Manila Bay in 2004 that left over 100 people killed. -- with a report from Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and RJ Rosalado, ABS-CBN News