Sinnott release not gift to Hillary — Palace

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE release of Irish priest Michael Sinnott was only “coincidental” and certainly not an intentional gift, marking the visit to Manila of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Thus said Malacañang even as Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Affairs Jesus Dureza admitted the release of Sinnot was “a positive development” in time for Clinton’s visit.

Dureza stressed that Sinnott’s release appeared only to coincide with Clinton’s visit, pointing out it was “not intentional.”

“But it is a good development in time for the visit,” Dureza said, adding the government and the ceasefire mechanism with secessionist MILF played a key role in the priest’s release.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo personally welcomed Sinnott at the Villamor Air Base in Parañaque City before proceeding to her original schedule at Tagaytay City for the opening ceremonies of the 36th Top Level Management Conference of the Kapisanan ng Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) at Taal Vista Hotel.

Irish Ambassador Richard O’Brian also welcomed the priest. Sinnott was accompanied by Western Mindanao Command head Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino and Ambassador Rafael Seguis, head of the government panel talking peace with the MILF.

The 79-year-old Columban missionary arrived in Manila aboard a Philippine Air Force Fokker plane from the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City.

Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde hailed Sinnott’s release even as President Arroyo praised the soldiers, the police and the local crisis management team who worked hard to pressure the freedom of the Irish priest who was in captivity for over a month.

Remonde also cited the vital role of the MILF in Sinnott’s release, stressing that it proves their sincerity which works well with the forging of peace accord with the MILF.

Remonde also said that there will be no let-up in hot pursuit operations against those responsible behind Sinnott’s abduction.

Sinnott was turned over by the MILF task force to Seguis, and Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities head Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Sealana at 4:25 a.m. in Bgy. Sangali in Zamboanga City Thursday hours before Clinton’s scheduled arrival at 1 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.