Freed Italian priest wants to set aside kidnap experience

Roel Pareño - The Philippine Star

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Tired and gaunt, freed captive Italian former priest Rolando del Torchio asked for a cigarette to stay calm and said he wanted to set aside his experience with the Abu Sayyaf group.

Del Torchio arrived here yesterday morning aboard a navy multi-purpose attack craft from Jolo where he was freed Friday night by his Abu Sayyaf captors, reportedly after payment of P29-million ransom.

Escorted by personnel of the Philippine National Police-Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG), Del Torchio was brought to the Camp Navarro General Hospital at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) for a medical check-up.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., Westmincom spokesman, said military doctors declared Del Torchio in stable condition.

“He was saying he was tired and wants to rest. He wants to set aside his bad experience,” Tan said, relating Del Torchio’s remarks when asked about a possible media interview.

Tan added that the former captive is eager to see his family.

After his medical check-up, Del Torchio was turned over to the AKG who flew him to Manila aboard a private plane.

Tan identified the Abu Sayyaf group as the one who held Del Torchio captive, but declined to elaborate on other operational details that the victim disclosed during the debriefing because this may preempt operations on the ground.

Tan could not say how the victim was freed. He could not also confirm or deny if negotiation was conducted and ransom paid.

“That will be answered by the AKG. The role of the Armed Forces is to facilitate the safe transfer of the victim. The AFP strictly adheres to the no-ransom policy,” Tan said.

Sources on the ground, however, confirmed that the Abu Sayyaf demanded P30 million but only P29 million was paid for the release of the victim.

Tan said the recovery of Del Torchio came after the AKG was tipped off on the release of Del Torchio. – With Aurea Calica, Cecille Suerte Felipe, AFP

Passed on to Sayyaf

Tan revealed that Del Torchio was only passed on to the Abu Sayyaf by a kidnap-for-ransom group that seized him.

He said Del Torchio was kidnapped last Oct. 7 at his pizza house in Dipolog City by a kidnap-for-ransom group called Muloc group under Julmin Muloc alias Kumander Red Eye.

Del Torchio was then turned over to the Abu Sayyaf group under sub-leader Iddang Susukan.

Still no news

Meanwhile, Tan said there is no word yet on the fate of the rest of Abu Sayyaf’s recent kidnap victims, including three Westerners, a Filipina and 10 Indonesians and Malaysians.

The military official said Westmincom continues its military operation for the safe recovery of the victims.

In a related development, President Aquino said yesterday he met with Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi to tackle the Abu Sayyaf Group’s kidnapping of 10 Indonesian fishermen.

“We want to keep the very good relations between the Philippines and Indonesia,” Aquino said during a campaign rally of the Liberal Party in Makati City.

The President said the meeting took place at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City because he was on his way to Carmona in Cavite to turn over a school building donated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and in Kawit for a campaign rally last Friday.

Aquino said he wanted to brief the foreign minister on everything about the incident and the condition of their nationals.

On April 1, Aquino said the security cluster of his Cabinet had a long meeting because of the kidnapping of Indonesians as well as the arrival of the Indonesian foreign minister.

The 10 crewmembers were kidnapped from the Brahma 12 tugboat and the Anand 12 barge carrying 7,000 tons of coal last March in Tawi-Tawi.

The Abu Sayyaf was also reported to have seized four Malaysian boat crewmembers off Sabah earlier this month.

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