Aquino says he was a target of the Abu Sayyaf, but Malacañang refuses to give details

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – As he vowed to put an end to the terror group Abu Sayyaf following the execution of Canadian captive John Ridsdel, President Benigno Aquino III disclosed there have been threats against his own life from the militants.

However, he and other officials refused to give details on this threat or on operations against the terror group, which is holding more than a dozen other hostages.

“Prudence demands that we do not go into more details as there are ongoing operations that may be affected,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Thursday (April 28).

Coloma assured that Filipinos are “adequately protected” and can carry on with their usual activities with “calm and ease.”

“Threats against my own life have been investigated,” Aquino said in a strongly-worded statement late Wednesday (April 27). He refused requests for interviews by reporters Thursday.

He said Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and his sister, Kris Aquino, were also targeted.

“I credit our security services for putting these threats to bed with both professionalism and discretion,” he said in his statement.

Meanwhile, in an interview also on Thursday, Pacquiao said he would have preferred it if the information was relayed to him first before making it public.

"May doubt pa rin ako pero hindi naman natin bina-balewala, kino-consider pa rin natin. I doubt na magagawa ng brother Muslim natin," the Sarangani representative and boxing champ said.

[Translation: "I still have my doubts (about the report) but we are not taking such threats lightly. But I doubt our Muslims brothers would do that."]

He added that he would have to beef up his family's security measures but he would still continue helping the poor and the Muslims.

Aquino: Gov’t in full force to put an end to Abu Sayyaf

Aquino said the Philippine government will “continue to seriously erode any ability of the ASG to continue to function.”

“I am ready to devote all my energies towards ensuring that, at the very least, this will be a very seriously degraded problem that I will pass on to my successor,” he said.

Also read: Who are the Abu Sayyaf?

Aquino said he wrote to Ridsdel’s family to express his condolences.

“We are so appalled by this murder,” he said. “Mr Ridsdel was a person against whom no one had any grievance – a person who was powerless against his captors.”

The 68-year-old Ridsdel, a former mining company executive, was abducted from a resort on Samal Island, Davao City, in September 2015, together with fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and a Filipina identified as Marites "Tess" Flor.

From left: Kjartan Sekkingstad, John Ridsel, Robert Hall, and Marithes "Tess" Flor

The Abu Sayyaf demanded P300 million for each of the hostages and warned Ridsel would be killed on Monday (April 25) if the ransom is not paid by then.

Later Monday night, two men on a motorcycle tossed a plastic bag containing Ridsdel's head on a street in Jolo.

Read: Abu Sayyaf beheads Canadian hostage John Ridsdel

Aquino said the ASG's terrorist activities, which were orchestrated to instill fear in the public, have instead "galvanized" the government to ensure justice will be served.

Aquino bares ASG plans to kidnap Pacquiao, Kris, to gain ISIS’ favor

Aquino said the Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups in the Philippines want to align with ISIS, and are making efforts to catch the attention of the international terrorist organization.

“From Day One of my administration, they have had aspirations to conduct bombings in Metro Manila to catch the attention of ISIS. May I emphasize that these have been, and remain, only aspirations,” Aquino said.

But the Armed Forces said there are no such reports.

When asked about intelligence reports that the ASG is bringing terrorism to Manila, Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said: “Wala kaming narereceive na reports na ganyan.

[Translation: “We have not received such reports.”]

Also read: AFP downplays ISIS hand in Basilan clash

Aquino also bared the ASG’s purported efforts to gain ISIS’ favor, including recruiting inmates at the New Bilibid Prison to join their cause.

Aquino added the ASG also allegedly hatched plots to kidnap Pacquiao or one of his children, and his sister or one of her children.

Pacquiao is the wealthiest member of the House of Representatives. He has three sons and two daughters.

Meanwhile, Kris, a television host and actress, is one of the country's biggest tax payers. She has two sons.

Aquino has three other sisters.

“Threats against my own life have been investigated,” Aquino said without providing details.

Ongoing operations in Sulu, Basilan

Aside from Sulu, Aquino said the armed forces are also continuing operations in Basilan province against ASG leaders Isnilon Hapilon and Furuji Indama.

Coloma declined to reveal details of the current military strategy in Sulu.

Hapilon and Indama allegedly led the attack against government troops in Tipo-Tipo town on April 9, leaving 18 soldiers and several rebels dead. More than 30 militants have been killed in subsequent clashes.

Read: Basilan clash: What we know so far

“Casualties are to be expected. But what has to be of utmost importance is neutralizing the criminal activities of the ASG,” Aquino said.

He assured the public that the armed forces are “well-trained, well-equipped, and resourceful,” and that the government will not stop until threats posed by the Abu Sayyaf are eliminated.