|Schilling, Ullah still alive -- Palace
MANILA, (ABS-CBN) -- While they
may not be in great physical shape, the remaining two hostages kept by the extremist Abu
Sayyaf are still alive, Malacañang announced Tuesday.
Press Secretary Ricardo Puno Jr. said the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) reported sighting American Jeffrey Schilling and Filipino Rolando Ullah.
He did not however elaborate on the details.
"Their condition is not that great, but they cling to
life," Puno said in his daily briefing, adding that the AFP is "pretty
optimistic" that it can rescue them soon.
In an interview last week, Schilling, a Muslim convert from
Oakland, California, said he is being kept in chains and is losing hope he would be
Puno also said the Abu Sayyaf has made "overtures"
to go back to the negotiating table, but the military told them that the time for that is
"The military is not entertaining any negotiation or
ransom. The only option (for the Abu Sayyaf) is to surrender," he said.
Ullah and Schilling are the only remaining hostages in the Abu
Sayyaf's hands since President Estrada ordered a military offensive against the group last
While Ullah was among the 21 persons snatched from the Sipadan
island resort last April, Schilling was taken last Aug. 28 and is believed to be a
The other Sipadan hostages were released in separate groups in
exchange for more than $15 million in ransom, hostage negotiators said.
The Abu Sayyaf is the smaller but more radical of two Muslim
rebel groups fighting for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
The military, however, considers it a bandit group engaged in
ransom kidnappings and attacks against Christians.
The military said at least 183 Abu Sayyaf members have been
killed and more than 210 others have surrendered since it launched the rescue operation.
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