Pull us out, ICRC workers plead

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE three members of the International Committee of the Red Cross kidnapped by suspected Abu Sayyaf extremists last month yesterday appealed to the government to exhaust all peaceful efforts to secure their safe liberty.

“Try to find a way to pull us out,” said Italian Eugenio Vagni in an exclusive interview over Iglesia ni Cristo-run DzEC radio where he claimed they are being treated well by their captors led by Albader Parad.

Vagni, said they have repeatedly told their captors that there is no reason to hold them since they were merely engaged in humanitarian work in Sulu.

“Now I feel good, thank you. We explained to them what we are doing in Jolo, the water project, they do understand. We are not harmed, no harm, no bruises,” he said. He said their captors provide them food, water and medicines.

The hostages said they stay under a makeshift roof.

“Everything is fine. We eat, when we need something, we go out,” Vagni said.

Andreas Notter, a Swiss national and head of the ICRC in Zamboanga City, also reiterated his call for the government to use all peaceful means to secure their freedom.

During the same interview, Filipino Engineer Mary Jane Lacaba said she has been in constant communication with her husband and only child even as she made an impassioned appeal to the crisis management committee to continue negotiating for their freedom.

“Hinihingi nila na makipag-negosasyon sa gobyerno. Sana tulungan kami at ibigay kung ano man ang kailangan nila so we can go back to our work. Hinihintay na rin kami ng mga pamilya namin,” she said. She also called on the people to pray for their safe release.

“Kung ano po ang mangyari sa amin dito ay ipagdasal nila kami. Kumusta na lang sa kanila (her family). Mahal ko sila. Ipagdasal nila ako, kaming tatlo. Sana maka-uwi na po ang lahat,” Lacaba said.

Parad claimed during the interview that they are also keeping another hostage whom he did not identify. He again demanded for a military in Sulu so they can start negotiating with government emissaries.

“Gusto ko sana magpaliwanag sa inyo. Ayaw naming makipag usap kahit kanino habang di nagpu-pull-out ang military,” Parad said.

The three ICRC workers were snatched by eight heavily-armed men at the vicinity of the Sulu Provincial Capitol in Patikul town last January 15. They have just visited the Sulu Provincial Jail when they were abducted.

The three are among the 11 people kidnapped in Mindanao since the start of the year.

Two most recent victims were workers of a lending firm who were abducted Tuesday night in Basilan.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces’ Western Mindanao Command opposed proposals for Vice-President Noli De Castro to lead the negotiation for the release of ICRC workers.

First Lt. Steffani Cacho, information officer of Westmincom, said they are concerned about the safety of De Castro, being the second highest official of the country. She said De Castro would be exposed to great danger if he will spearhead the negotiation.