DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Norwegian Ambassador Erik Forner thanked President-elect Rodrigo Duterte for his continued efforts to secure the release of Abu Sayyaf hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad.
Forner met with Duterte on Friday, June 24, moments after the incoming president met Marites Flor, the kidnap victim released by Abu Sayyaf that morning.
Their meeting took place at the so-called Malacañang of the South in the Department of Public Works and Highways compound in Panacan, Davao City.
"We are very thankful for what you are doing," Forner told Duterte in a video released by Radio TV Malacañang (RTVM) to media on Friday evening.
Duterte has promised to help in negotiations for the release of Sekkingstad, the only victim of the September 2015 Samal Island kidnapping incident still held hostage by Abu Sayyaf.
Two other hostages, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, were beheaded by the terrorist group after the ransom deadline had passed.
Flor was present at the meeting between Forner and Duterte. In the video, she is heard talking about Sekkingstad's hope that the Norwegian government do their best in securing his release.
"He really needs help.... I am so sorry Kjartan is not here," said Flor.
Earlier that day, Flor told media that the Abu Sayyaf still plans to kill Sekkingstad if they do not get the ransom money. The terrorist group was demanding P600 million in ransom for the hostages. (READ: Abu Sayyaf's release of Flor was 'act of goodwill')
Flor was released in front of the house of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II in Jolo, Sulu, at around 4:30 am on Friday, according to intelligence reports sourced by Rappler.
She was picked up from Jolo by incoming peace process adviser Jesus Dureza, who brought her to Davao City to meet Duterte.
Asked why Flor was presented to Duterte and not to President Benigno Aquino III, Dureza said: “Don't ask me that. Ask that of President Aquino’s officials.”
Dureza said her release was "an act of goodwill" from the Abu Sayyaf.
Three days before, Duterte declared in a speech that a "time of reckoning" would come for the Abu Sayyaf. – Rappler.com
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 email@example.com.