Notorious Abu Sayyaf Leader 'Commander Robot' Ready to Surrender
Notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Commander Robot, who seized dozens of foreign hostages last year, is ready to surrender, officials said Friday.
The government revealed that secret talks were under way with Ghalib Andang, alias Commander Robot, based on Jolo island, as troops pursued another Abu Sayyaf unit holding up to 29 hostages including three Americans on nearby Basilan.
Robot sent an emissary late Thursday to meet with provincial governor and presidential envoy Luis Singson in this southern city.
Andang "said he would surrender along with 17 of his men if he will be treated well and given a fair trial," Singson said after the meeting.
He later returned to Manila where he said he had told the rebel leader his original request for amnesty was "out of the question."
Singson said Andang denied his Abu Sayyaf faction had anything to do with the latest abductions. The Basilan-based Muslim rebels numbering about 460 are led by Andang allies Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Sabaya.
Asked when and where the surrender would take place, Singson said: "As soon as possible. We just have to wait for the emissary."
The military meanwhile signalled they would oppose leniency for Andang.
Military spokesman Brigadier General Edilberto Adan said Andang "has several charges against him for kidnapping for ransom, a heinous crime punishable by death and he is on top of our list as a criminal."
He added: "As of now, we are not aware of the surrender feelers from him. The policy of government in these kinds of cases is that he has to answer for all the criminal charges that are levelled against him."
Presidential spokesman Rigoberto Tiglao confirmed that the talks had President Gloria Arroyo's blessings. Her advisers were studying the "legal implications" of Andang's request.
"Governor Singson has been informing the president since last week" of the developments, Tiglao told reporters.
"His surrender would be a very good development. It means one major part of the Abu Sayyaf is being neutralized."
Commander Robot, a diminutive rebel leader with a smiling mien, masterminded cross-border raids into two Malaysian resorts last year, snatching dozens of Western tourists and journalists, Asian resort workers and locals.
All but one of his hostages -- Filipino Roland Ullah -- have been freed, reportedly after huge ransoms were paid.
Andang's gang operates independently with those of several other Abu Sayyaf chieftains in Jolo, where an estimated 640 Abu Sayyaf rebels operate.
Tiglao said Arroyo sent Singson to Zamboanga because of his contacts with both the military and the Abu Sayyaf.
A five million peso (98,000 dollar) bounty on Andang's head would likely be given to the emissary who facilitated the rebel leader's surrender, he said. Singson said he would reject a reward.
Asked why Andang had chosen him to relay his surrender message, Singson said: "I do not know, they said they hated Erap," a reference to jailed ex-president Joseph Estrada, who last year launched major offensives against the guerrillas on Jolo.
Singson was a former drinking buddy of Estrada whose allegations of massive corruption in government eventually led to the president's downfall in a military-backed popular revolt in January -- ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AFP)
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