“We ask the Aquino government to issue a diplomatic statement condemning the acts of Algerian forces. Aquino should demand the Algerian government’s accountability to all victims of hostage-taking in Algeria, including our kababayans (fellow Filipinos).” Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – In the wake of reports that six Filipino workers were killed in the biggest international hostage crisis in recent years, Migrante Partylist called for the immediate repatriation of the victims and other overseas Filipino workers.
“The Philippine government should immediately repatriate the OFWs and ensure financial assistance and full compensation for all the victims in the Algeria hostage-taking,” Migrante Partylist chairwoman Connie Bragas-Regalado said.
In a press conference on Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that six Filipinos had died in the hostage crisis. Four others are still reportedly missing.
DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said 26 Filipinos were working at the In Amenas gas plant, which was attacked recently by the al-Qaida-linked gunmen. The identities of the victims were confirmed both by the Algerian Foreign Ministry and their employers, Hernandez said.
As of this writing, the DFA is in the process of notifying the relatives of the six confirmed dead Filipinos and the four others who remain missing. They said they are also coordinating the shipment of the remains.
Four more Filipinos were wounded and are being treated at a hospital. Hernandez was quoted as saying in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report that the OFWs are generally in a stable condition, except for one who reportedly sustained serious injuries in his neck and spine.
“We ask the Aquino government to issue a diplomatic statement condemning the acts of Algerian forces. Aquino should demand the Algerian government’s accountability to all victims of hostage-taking in Algeria, including our kababayans (fellow Filipinos),” Regalado said.
Regalado also urged the DFA to “strictly monitor” the situation of Filipino workers in Algeria. As of 2011, there are 3,402 OFWs deployed there.
The Masked Brigade, the group claiming to have masterminded the hostage crisis, said in earlier media interviews, that they are carrying out attacks in the name of al-Qaeda. The latter had been tagged by the United States government as a terrorist group. Their statement, as reported by the Mail Online, said there would be more attacks against countries backing France’s military intervention in neighboring country Mali.
Algerian government troops, Yahoo News reported, were able to capture five kidnappers in their final rescue bid on Sunday. Three other kidnappers are reportedly still at large.
Twenty-five bodies of captives were found at the recovered facility.
DFA’s Hernandez has no information on whether the six killed Filipinos were executed by the kidnappers or if they died as a result of the rescue operation. He only said “it was the direct result of the hostage-taking incident in the area and mostly by gunshot wounds and the effects of the explosion.”
When Hernandez was reportedly pressed by reporters on the circumstances of the six Filipinos’ killing, he just replied: “The information is they died in the facility,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.
Meanwhile, 39 OFWs working at a British energy facility located hundreds of kilometers away from the In Amenas gas plant were sent home.
“We were far from the gas plant that was attacked,” Cerilo Tundag, 52, said in an ABS-CBN report. He said they were sent home for security reasons. He arrived with other Filipinos in Manila on Sunday night.
Migrante Partylist said they are coordinating with their Middle East chapter in pushing the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya to form a “quick reaction team to immediately act and ensure the welfare of our fellow Filipinos and their families at home.”
The Philippine embassy in Tripoli also covers Algeria.