Duterte apologizes for death of German hostage: 'We failed'

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, February 28, apologized to Germany for the death of Juergen Kantner at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf and vowed to continue his administration's campaign against the terrorist group.

"I am very sorry that the hostage, a national of your country, has been beheaded. I sympathize with the family, I commiserate with the German people," Duterte said during a Palace press conference.

He admitted that despite intensified military operations against the Abu Sayyaf, the government failed to rescue Kantner, who was beheaded after a February 26 deadline for his ransom payment lapsed.

"We really tried our best. We have been there; the military operation has been going on for some time already, but we have failed and so that has to be admitted," said Duterte.

He vowed that the "massive operations" against the group will continue and that the military is stepping up the campaign with new equipment.

"There's a massive operation going on and I have just announced to you, they're beginning to use air assets," said the President.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has said it will try to crush the Abu Sayyaf by June 2017. Duterte, who was not aware of such a deadline, said this is only possible with more defense assets.

"We need [more] equipment. Until such time that we have the fast boats, the remaining frigates or whatever that was ordered from Japan. We plan to purchase more helicopters," he said.

The military also aims to improve its ability to conduct operations at night. Duterte expects the provision of needed equipment soon.

"We are nearing to it," he told media.

Twenty-seven hostages remain with the ASG, said Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, who was at the press conference.

Moments before, Dureza presented to Duterte Rexon Romoc, the 8-year-old boy released by the ASG on Monday, February 27. Romoc, who was kidnapped with his parents in August 2016, was released after a reported P3-million ransom payment.

His parents, Elmer and Nora, reportedly paid P1 million each for their release in late August and in November last year. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.