Manila, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday that the “the best thing that happened to us” amidst the government’s war on drugs and terrorism was the release of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad from the Abu Sayyaf on Saturday afternoon.
“The best thing that happened to us is really the release of Kjartan because we were able to complete our promise to Norway, which is giving us good offices for a space to talk vis-a-vis with the Communist Party of the Philippines. It has provided good offices to several countries for so many conflicts. I salute the country for being peaceful,” Duterte said.
The President credited the efforts of Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, former Sulu governor Sakur Tan, the Norwegian government, and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari for the safe release of the hostage.
“Misuari all along assured us that he would need time but he would succeed. It was a long, long negotiation as far as I’m concerned. I talked to Misuari even in the Cabinet meetings. I had him called, and he assured me that we would be able to recover alive and well Kjartan. And so we are here,” the President stated.
Duterte believes that the release of Sekkingstad is a huge step in combating terrorism and in strengthening law and order in the country.
He also declared terrorism and civilization as the “next great battle” of the government.
Meanwhile, Sekkingstad extended his gratitude to the Philippine President and to the people who helped secure his safety and freedom.
“I like to express a heartfelt thank you to President Duterte, Secretary Duterte, the chairman Nur Misuari and his finest men who released me yesterday afternoon, got me out of captivity,” Sekkingstad said.
“I am very happy to be alive and free. It’s a beautiful feeling,” the Norwegian added.
Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Førner also thanked Duterte for the government’s outstanding help in releasing Sekkingstad.
“The President’s personal commitment even before he took office has been crucial to solve this issue,” Førner said.
Sekkingstad was held captive for a year after being abducted in September 2015 by notorious kidnappers-for-ransom the Abu Sayyaf from a resort in Samal Island in Davao del Norte. He was released to the MNLF that turned him over to Dureza and Tan on Sunday afternoon.
While the Philippine government maintained its no-ransom policy and the Norwegian government denied paying for ransom, a military source has disclosed that some P30-million was made for Sekkingstad. Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he would not rule out a third party, such as Sekkingstad’s family, paying a ransom.