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Kidnappings involving foreigners point to new crime wave in Mindanao

Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian has expressed alarm over the latest kidnapping incident in Mindanao involving an Italian businessman who used to be a Catholic missionary priest saying this is an indication of a new kidnapping​ wave raging in Southern Philippines.

Rolando del Torchio, a former priest of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was reportedly kidnapped by unidentified men about 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at his pizza restaurant inside the Andres Bonifacio College compound in Dipolog City.

“Whatever happened to the intensified police and military operations launched by the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces following the Samal Island kidnapping incident?” asked Gatchalian.

Related News: Gatchalian urges DILG-PNP to intensify security operations in Mindanao

Torchio’s kidnapping happened three weeks after two Canadian nationals, one Norwegian and a Filipina were abducted by 20 armed men in a beach resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte last Sept. 21.

As stated in police reports, Torchio was dragged into a waiting vehicle at Dipolog Boulevard near UrChoice. Police rushed to the boulevard, under the premise that kidnappers would usually use pumpboats to transport hostages. Del Torchio liked Dipolog so much he decided to stay in the city where he opened his own pizza house called UrChoice.

The Valenzuela City lawmaker has expressed deep concern over the new wave of kidnappings in Mindanao even as he urged his former colleague in Congress, Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento to intensify security operations in Southern Philippines, particularly in areas frequented by foreigners.

“There is now a trend in Mindanao where foreigners are being targeted for kidnapping. I hope these kidnap cases have nothing to do with the 2016 elections or with the forthcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders Summit next month,” said Gatchalian.

Gatchalian earlier asked Secretary Sarmiento to order the PNP to intensify security operations in Mindanao following the kidnapping last September of Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian and operations manager of the resort; Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and his Filipina girlfriend identified only as Tess.

Related News: NBI, PNP probers reorientation urged to avoid racial discrimination

The kidnappings of two Canadians, one Norwegian and the latest of which involving an Italian businessman will have an adverse effect not only on the country’s tourism but more so on the economy as potential foreign investors might decide not to push through with their business due to security concerns,” explained Gatchalian.

The Canadian government has already advised Canadians against traveling to the Davao region and nearby areas, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao due to what it said was “serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping.”

Kidnappings of foreign nationals is not new in Mindanao and many of the past incidents were carried out by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

In 2001, Abu Sayyaf bandits seized local and foreign tourists at the posh Dos Palmas resort in Palawan, including US missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham.

The Dos Palmas hostage-taking drama ended June 2002 when government security forces stormed the bandits’ lair in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte. At the time, three remained as hostages — the Burnham couple and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap.

Martin and Ediborah, however, were caught in the crossfire. Gracia survived, but sustained a gunshot wound in her leg. (R. Burgos)