Still no word on abducted Europeans in Tawi-Tawi

David Yu Santos
Local officials face a "blank wall" on whereabouts of foreigners

ESCAPE: Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra (right) was in captivity for 2 years (File photo courtesy of Tawi-Tawi PNP)

MANILA, Philippines – The local government in Tawi-Tawi continues to “face a blank wall” on the whereabouts of the 2 European tourists, more than a couple of weeks since they were abducted by armed men in a remote coastal town of the island-province.

There is no communication up to this time,” Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, provincial police chief told Rappler. “Our troops are still in the field, trying to find clues on where they (hostages) could have been brought.”

Dutch Eworld Horn, 52, and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, were abducted along with 3 Filipino companions while birdwatching in Barangay Parangan in Panglima Sugala town on February 3. The Filipinos were later spared, while the 3rd one, Ivan Sarenas, managed to escape.

We are facing a blank wall,” Tawi-Tawi Vice-Governor Ruby Sahali said. “We are clueless on their (hostages’) whereabouts or the personalities behind the abduction. No one is contacting me or my father (Governor Sadikul Sahali).”

Sahali admitted that the local Crisis Management Committee (CMC) is pursuing “small leads” on where the possible location of the abductors and their captives, “but we rather keep quite for the meantime so as not to jeopardize our efforts.”

We are trying to open all possible communication lines with whoever may lead us to the hostages,” Sahali said, pointing out that “emissaries” have been deployed in different towns, including in Languyan, where the captors and Europeans were reportedly last sighted fleeing from authorities.

Jocson refused to say if Sarenas is still in Tawi-Tawi but assured that “he is in a safe place.”

We can’t tell you where he is now for his own security,” Jocson said.

Following his daring escape hours after their abduction last February 3, Sarenas vowed to “help the authorities to find” Horn and Vinciguerra. In an interview with Rappler, Sarenas, a photographer and travel writer, widely known in the Philippine birdwatching circle, admitted feeling accountable for his foreign colleagues, whom he brought to Tawi-Tawi 4 days before they were seized.

Mr Sarenas has been helping us by identifying their abductors which could be helpful in our investigation,” Jocson added. “But he cannot be participating directly in the actual operations.”

In Zamboanga Sibugay, the Filipina wife of kidnapped Australian teacher and former soldier Warren Rodwell, has reportedly been placed under “police watch” as discreet negotiations with the captors are underway.

Mariflor Gutang, whom Rodwell married in Ipil town in June 2011, “has been placed under the monitoring of a police unit in Metro Manila,” according to a local official who refused to be named since he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

KIDNAPPED. Negotiations are "underway" for the possible release of Australian national Warren Rodwell who was kidnapped in Zamboanga Sibugay in December 3, 2011.

Rodwell was kidnapped in December 5, 2011, while alone in his home in a middle class subdivision in Ipil. 2 weeks later, a video showing Rodwell appealing for help to produce a US$2 million ransom, was sent by his captors to his wife.

Police intelligence reports indicated that Rodwell is being held captive in the hinterlands of Basilan, a known lair of several lawless armed groups, including the Abu Sayyaf. Sources in Ipil said that the kidnappers initially contacted Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Rommel Jalosjos.

Jalosjos, who confirmed directly working with the Australian Embassy to work on the possible release of the Rodwell, denied communicating with the kidnappers. In mid-December 2011, Jalosjos told Rappler that a “news blackout” is in place to ensure that efforts to safely recover Rodwell will not be put in danger.

Zamboanga Sibugay police chief Senior Superintendent Ruben Cariaga, Jr said that they are looking into the possible involvement of the same group of armed men behind the September 2011 kidnapping of a Filipina salon owner, who was married to a Scottish national.

Criminal cases have been filed against the suspects for the Galvez kidnapping,” Cariaga said.

Galvez was rescued by Army elite forces in 2 weeks since she was kidnapped. “It is possible that these kidnappers were also those who took Rodwell,” the police official added, noting that the manner of kidnapping and the circumstances that the victims were subjected to “appear similar.” –

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