DAVAO CITY – The Jordanian journalist who supposedly deceived local authorities and sought out the Abu Sayyaf for an interview may be banned from returning to the country, President Benigno S. Aquino III said yesterday.
The President demanded an explanation from Baker Atyani of the Al Arabiya news network on why he shunned the protection offered by local officials and put some people’s lives at risk.
Aquino said he wanted to hear Atyani’s side before deciding on the recommendation made by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to prohibit him from re-entering the country.
Atyani was reported missing in Sulu last week until authorities found out he and his two Filipino assistants were in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf and was filming a documentary.
“Let’s give him an opportunity to explain,” Aquino said in a press conference after a convention of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) here.
The President said that based on reports he received, Atyani duped local authorities and sneaked out to do an interview with Abu Sayyaf militants, who are considered terrorists by the government.
“He has to explain, ‘Why are you in touch with the terrorist force in the country and you purposely misled government authorities who were trying to secure you.’ That has to be addressed,” Aquino said.
“This guy has to address the issues of why he has put so many people in danger and the country’s reputation in danger. He has not behaved as a guest of the country seemingly should but of course we will wait for the proper investigation,” the President said.
Aquino however said the government wants to make sure Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen “are all safe at the end of the day.”
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo had recommended that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) enforce the travel ban on Atyani because of the “trouble” and “deception” he has caused.
Robredo said the government has not launched any search and rescue mission for Atyani and his Filipino companions because they are “safe” and not under threat.
“We are recommending from here on not to allow the Jordanian journalist (to return to the Philippines) because first, we are following protocol to ensure their safety. There was an element of deception in what he did. He should have at least informed us about his plans,” Robredo told reporters in Davao City.
“If you imperil yourself and you create problems for us, I think he should be prohibited from coming here. Even if we say that he ignored our protocol, we still have the responsibility in this case,” he said.
Prohibiting Atyani from visiting the Philippines will also be “for his own good and his own security,” Robredo said.
The DILG chief disclosed that the government has established contact with Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen, and learned that they were doing a documentary about the Abu Sayyaf.
“Our assumption is he went there for an interview and he is safe,” Robredo said. “As of now, we will wait and see.”
He said Atyani will be debriefed by authorities when he finishes the documentary.