Captors urged to set Filipino free

The Philippine government has issuedan urgent appeal to a Filipino driver's captors to release him, citing the country's "long history of working withthe people of Iraq".

    De la Cruz's family members are praying for his safe return

    In a statement faxed to Aljazeera, Foreign Minister Delia Albert, said: "[Driver] Angelo de la Cruz wishes nothing more than an honest day's wage to feed his wife and eight young children. He has not committed any acts of violence against the Iraqi people nor does he wish them ill".

    Angelo, a truck driver employed in Saudi Arabia, was driving to Iraq to deliver crude oil when he was taken captive on Wednesday after crossing the Saudi-Iraqi border.

    The captors have demanded the withdrawal of the Philippine Humanitarian Contingent in Iraq.

    The minister addressed Angelo's captors, saying "the Philippine Humanitarian Contingent never had and has never been given any combat role by the Philippine government".

    So far no foreign government
    has met the demands of captors

    The contingent's terms of reference were subject to close scrutiny by many sectors of Philippine society before their departure and found to be "clear – to provide only humanitarian assistance to the people of Iraq", the minister said.

    She said helping the people of Iraq with the presence of Filipino civilian contract workers in Iraq is a decades-old tradition.

    "Many of them are in reconstruction projects while others are helping provide basic services," she said, adding that captured de la Cruz, "is part of that tradition".

    Bonds of friendship

    The Philippine foreign minister said Filipinos in the tens of thousands were in Iraq to help build its roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

    "They have reached out to a large number of Iraqi communities and have helped them build classrooms, clinics, water and sewage facilities, electric transmission stations among other things".

    "Angelo de la Cruz wishes nothing more than an honest day's wage to feed his wife and eight young children"

    Delia Albert, 
    Philippine Foreign Minister

    Overseas Filipino workers have made a big difference in helping the people of Iraq - "they have provided health care and, in several instances, even saved lives. They have formed bonds of friendship with the people of Iraq", the Philippine foreign minister said, adding that "little has changed in our desire to help the people of Iraq".

    Urging the captors to spare de la Cruz's life and allow him to be reunited with his family, the minister said, "If those who hold  him hope to promote their cause, compassion and mercy should be their guiding principle".

    Philippine government officials in the Middle East are seeking a possible extension for the 72-hour deadline set by Angelo's captors.

    The Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has ordered a halt to deploying more Filipino contract workers in Iraq, but hasn't directly responded to the demand for a pullout of the humanitarian contingent.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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