In September of 2015, three tourists were abducted from a resort near the city of Davao. Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina woman named Marites Flor were taken by the Abu Sayyaf group to island of Jolo. The group released a video in November, demanding $80 million for the release of the hostages. Mr. John Ridsdel warned that he was to be killed if no ransom was paid by April 25, 2016.
Fast forward to April of 2016, hours after the aforementioned deadline, a decapitated head was found on the street in Jolo. Though unconfirmed by the Philippine army and government, news quickly spread around the world that this belonged to Mr. Ridsdel.
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Prime Minister, confirmed in a press conference what happened to Mr. Ridsdel, his source being former senator and Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon. Hours after the incident happened, the Prime Minister condemned the beheading as an “act of cold blooded murder” and described it as a “heinous act”. In a statement, Prime Minister Trudeau blamed the radical Islamist group for the act and said that the “responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group”.
The Canadian Prime Minister spoke promptly and acted accordingly to the situation. As head of state, he did his duty and released a statement out of concern for all aggrieved parties. He showed how affected he was because of the tragedy that struck, especially because his orders of having the captives saved has proven to be fruitless so far.
President Benigno Aquino III meanwhile, issued a statement through Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma come noon of April 26, a day after the tragic beheading. According to the statement, the response to the incident would be a “full force of the law” and they vowed to save as soon as they could the 25 other captives of the Abu Sayyaf. Despite the statement issued, this would have been a suitable time for President Aquino to make his own statement. The beheading of the Canadian national deserved a direct public condemnation from the president of the country where it happened. Whereas Prime Minister Trudeau made known his anger and sadness over the incident, President Aquino did not.
Aside from failing to personally address the issue, President Aquino also lacked the crucial timing necessary from a head of state in responding to a crisis. Prime Minister Trudeau, by instantly responding to the issue, was able to show his concern and stand. Though we must accept that the leadership styles of nation leaders are all different, some people question why President Aquino did not respond sooner and more personally. We are all aware of how the President deals with crisis and we are all familiar with his leadership style, but it would have been suitable for the President of the Philippines to act much like the Canadian Prime Minister.
Though no Filipino died, the heinous crime was committed on Philippine soil, during President Aquino’s term. Many hope that his response would have been quicker and that his actions to save the captives would be faster as well.
In his few remaining days in office, one has to ask, what more can the President do to uphold his promise of a “full force of the law”?