PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — GOVERNMENT troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group holding the remaining International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker Italian Eugenio Vagni received information that the latter was abandoned by fleeing bandits in Talipao, Sulu.
This was confirmed by Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Bryan Yamsuan.
In line with this, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa yesterday announced that the government is offering a P500,000 reward to anyone who could provide information on the exact location of Vagni.
Verzosa said the reward was approved by Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and the local crisis management committee handling the hostage crisis led by Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan.
Earlier, Puno said police and military troops are continuing their pursuit against Vagni’s kidnappers even as he assured the public that the safety of the remaining hostage in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf is the government’s “top priority.”
Initial information from the ground revealed that the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad, which was reported to have held Vagni, was spotted within the vicinity of the town of Talipao.
“We have now received reports that Mr. Vagni was already abandoned by his captors,” Verzosa said.
Vagni, an Italian, along with fellow workers Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba and Swiss national Andreas Notter were kidnapped last January 15 in Jolo by Abu Sayyaf bandits. Lacaba was released by her captors last April 2, while Notter was rescued by the police and civilian emergency forces after a brief encounter with the kidnappers last April 18 in the village of Manilop in Indanan town.
Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon urged government troops to prioritize the safety of Vagni as they engage the bandits in Sulu.
Gordon said that he still prefer to exhaust all peaceful means for the release of the abducted Italian International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker.
With a report from Marlon Purificacion & Fernando M. Cariaso.
Sulu Crisis Management Committee had given the military go signal to use force to rescue Vagni, one of the three ICRC workers the bandits seized in Sulu last January 15.
“Baka matamaan sa crossfire ‘yan o baka mamaya di mo maisip ang ibang kasamahan ng Abu Sayyaf di lahat pare-pareho ang pag-iisip baka gumawa ng di mabuti yan,” Gordon said.
Of three ICRC workers abducted in Sulu last January, only Vagni remains in captivity. Mary Jean Lacaba was released April 2 while Andreas Notter gained his freedom last April 18.
The senator reiterated that the government should be more aggressive at its talking with the bandits.
“Dapat talagang maging more aggressive tayo sa pakikipag-usap sa kanila,” he said.