ZAMBOANGA CITY–The abductors of Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi have sent a text message to a government emissary that their captive is alive, a Marine general said Tuesday.
But Brig. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, chair of the government’s Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (Ahjag), said they were still trying to get more information.
Dolorfino, who heads non-military efforts to free the 57-year-old Bossi, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that a Maranao emissary from Lanao had phoned him twice Tuesday.
He said the emissary, who also helped in negotiations in kidnappings in the past, told him that the kidnappers sent a text message indicating that the priest is alive.
“We talked. He has direct contacts with the kidnappers. The kidnappers’ word to him is implied. The priest is still alive,” Dolorfino said by phone.
He said no ransom demand was discussed during their talk but the contact asked for money to buy medicines for Bossi.
Bossi, who suffers from hypertension, was snatched on his way to celebrate Mass in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay on June 10.
His captors have reportedly brought him to Lanao del Norte, particularly the town of Sultan Naga Dimaporo.
Government forces and Moro rebels have been deployed to the area to pressure the kidnappers into releasing their captive.
Dolorfino said he and the emissary “have close coordination” and they have been in contact since June 22.
“Hopefully we could establish direct contact with the kidnappers. We will know all about Bossi’s condition if we can establish contact with them,” Dolorfino said.
The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Bossi’s religious order, said it has not received “proof of life” yet.
Fr. Gianni Battista Sandalo, PIME superior in the Philippines, also expressed surprise at Dolorfino’s statement about the contact with the kidnappers.
He said he was not aware of it.
“Up to now, nobody has ever contacted us, and nobody came forward to share information on the whereabouts of Fr. Giancarlo,” he said.
Sandalo said the absence of any form of communication or contact has been an agony, not just for the PIME community here, but for other people close to Bossi as well.
“We are trying to be patient waiting for anything,” he said.
Sandalo also said that while the PIME community continues to wait for developments, some people in Zamboanga Sibugay have organized themselves in an effort to help free the abducted priest. Julie Alipala and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao