Pres. Aquino considered declaring martial law in Sulu

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(File photo) President Benigno Aquino III flies to Jolo, Sulu, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, days after the group beheaded one of its hostages.

Jolo (CNN Philippines) — President Benigno Aquino III said Wednesday he considered placing the entire province of Sulu under martial law weeks before the June 13 deadline set by the Abu Sayyaf group, for the payment of ransom to save the life of one of its foreign hostages.

Aquino said he dropped the idea because there was no guarantee martial law would lead to the rescue of the hostages. Martial law entails giving broad powers to security forces and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, which allows warrantless arrests and detention.

Aquino spoke to reporters in Jolo, Sulu, where he and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin held meetings with military commanders directing operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

He revealed that a private group is negotiating for the release of Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who is still being held by the Abu Sayyaf together with Filipino Marites Flor.

The two were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen from a resort on Samal Island in September last year. Two other hostages, both Canadians – John Ridsdel and Robert Hall – have been killed because no ransom was paid for them.

Ridsel was beheaded in April and Hall last Monday after the deadline for his ransom payment lapsed.

Related: AFP: Severed head believed to be ASG hostage found in Jolo

Aquino said he spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and apologized.

He cancelled his appearance at the launching of a new business process outsourcing facility at the Mall of Asia on Monday as news of the Hall’s beheading spread.

Presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma condemned the killing as a “brutal and senseless murder.”

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman for the military’s Western Mindanao Command, said authorities found the head of a Caucasian male in front of a church in Jolo late Monday, hours after the Abu Sayyaf decapitated Hall.

Police have yet to confirm whether the head belongs to Hall.

Tan also said the military has intensified efforts to go after the Abu Sayaf group and free the remaining hostages.

Also read: Who are the Abu Sayyaf?

CNN Philippines correspondent Gerg Cahiles reported from Jolo, Sulu.