The recent murder of Canadian national John Ridsdel by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) has earned the ire of the international community and continues to test the Philippines’ ties with Canada.
Ridsdel, 68, was kidnapped by armed men in September 2015 from a resort in Samal Island in Davao together with three other people, including another Canadian.
According to reports, a severed head was found at the corner of Mayor Salih Yusah and Sari Ahmad Streets in Barangay Walled City in Jolo, Sulu on Monday night, April 25. It was later determined to be Ridsdel, as confirmed by authorities.
In a statement released April 26, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is outraged by the ‘cold-blooded’ murder of Ridsdel.
Trudeau adds, “Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage-takers, and this unnecessary death. This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage.”
Trudeau expressed his sympathies to the family and friends of Ridsdel and asked the media to respect the privacy of Ridsdel’s loved ones in this time of grief. He also emphasized that the Canadian government is continually working with the Philippine government to bring those responsible to justice.
“Canada’s first priority is the safety and security of its citizens,” Trudeau continued. “The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.”
ASG plotted to kidnap Manny Pacquiao, Kris Aquino
President Benigno Aquino III has sent a letter to the Ridsdel family, expressing his condolences and a promise to damage the function of the ASG.
In a strongly worded statement, Aquino vowed to strengthen the fight against the ISIS-tied militants.
“This murder was meant to terrorize our whole population. The Abu Sayyaf thought they could instill fear in us; instead, they have galvanized us even further to ensure justice is meted out,” Aquino said.
“We have always been open to talks with those who desire peace; but those who commit atrocities can expect the full might of the State.”
Aquino assured the public that he is “ready to devote all [his] energies towards ensuring that, at the very least, this (terrorism and the ASG) will be a very seriously degraded problem that [he] will pass on to [his] successor.”
The President also shared that he has received several threats to his life and safety, as well as intelligence reports about a plot to kidnap his sister, actress and TV host Kris Aquino, and Congressman and world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao. However, these plots “have been, and remain, only aspirations.”
Aquino, who has roughly two months left in his term, stated that “the public may rest assured
that they may go about their daily lives without fear or unease” and the government’s forces will “continue to seriously erode any ability of the ASG to continue to function.”
Aquino continued, “The full resources of the State are being brought down on the ASG. Our primary objective is to rescue the hostages and ensure the safety of our civilian population. We will leave no stone unturned and are studying every instrument, both military and legal, to ensure success in our areas of operations and wherever else required.”
With an intensified manhunt for the rebel forces, “casualties are to be expected,” said the President. “But what has to be of utmost importance is neutralizing the criminal activities of the ASG. The men and women in our Armed Forces are well-trained, well-equipped, and resourceful. I have full trust and confidence in them.”
According to Aquino, while his Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) administration has proven that they “will choose all-out justice over all-out war,” they have also proven that they “always act from a position of strength.”
To that effect, the Commander-in-Chief only had feisty words to the ASG and their supporters:
“You have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language. We will not stop until the threat they pose to our communities is ended.”
‘Lived life to the fullest’
Ridsdel was from Calgary, Alberta. He was a former reporter and producer of CBC Calgary and the Calgary Herald. After working as a journalist, he worked for Petro-Canada and traveled Asia. When he was captured in 2015, he was working as a consultant for TVI Resource Development Philippines, a subsidiary of TVI Canada.
In a statement released by members of Ridsdel’s family, they said John “loved life and lived it to the fullest with his family and friends at the center. He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister and extended family. Our family is devastated at the loss of our father and brother John Ridsdel whose life was cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence.”
By CHING DEE