We are happy and relieved that our colleague, Mary Jean "Nene" Lacaba, is finally safe and free. After spending 78 days in the jungle of Sulu, Nene is finally reunited with her family. Her ordeal is more than a story of human suffering, but a triumph of human spirit. Hers is a lesson for us all and hopefully we shall take this tragic reality to heart. But, for now, we are happy she is alive and well.
We thank all those who have – collectively and individually — made her release possible. We thank the military chain of command, especially our soldiers – those who sacrificed their lives and those who are still fighting in the field, and also the members of the Crisis Committee in Sulu.
Nene's safe and unconditional release is a proof that talking things through, using peaceful and diplomatic means available to resolve conflict, is better than using bullets and bombs. Life is precious, even the life of those who have declared themselves as our enemies.
In seeking the release of Nene, Andreas Notter, and Eugenio Vagni, we hold firm the belief that keeping the lines of communication open at all times and the faith in the inherent goodness in each one of us all will enable us to succeed.
Our constant prayers as a nation of Christians and Muslims show that we all pray to one Supreme Power. It also proves that no matter what province we may come from or what heritage we may bear, we are all Filipinos first.
The euphoria we feel today is however weighed down by the continued struggle of Andreas and Eugenio. Nene's release fills us with hope that our two other colleagues will also be released soon. Nevertheless, we must continue with all peaceful efforts and remain steadfast in praying for their safe release.
We shall never relax our efforts for the freedom of Andreas and Eugenio. But when this episode is over, we will certainly be in a position of full peace and development offensive.
We have been to Basilan, Sulu and other parts of the country where poverty and desperation has bred violent conflict. What is needed is a new paradigm shift for bringing the peace to these areas. Instead of retreating, the government should move forward and ensure that development initiatives as well as government services are provided in full and unrelenting waves.