ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Fellow missionaries of Fr. Giancarlo Bossi yesterday showed increasing exasperation and dismay over the authorities’ failure to give them a clear picture of what was happening with the kidnapped Italian priest, and voiced suspicion this was all “a vicious drama.”
In a statement, Bossi’s congregation, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), also asked if conflicting reports about supposed efforts to recover the kidnapped, 57-year-old missionary might not be part of a coverup.
“We were told that both the government forces and the (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) contacts have been monitoring all possible areas, all possible armed groups, and all possible witnesses, even the most secret hideouts, using the latest high-tech devices,” the priests said in the statement.
“We were told that emissaries were sent with cell phones to verify if he is alive, we were told that medicines had been provided for his hypertension, we were told he is well (and) alive riding a horse. We were told that the kidnappers are asking for P15 million. But when we tried to verify all these reports we have come to the conclusion that they are all false reports.”
Bossi was abducted on June 10 while on his way to celebrate Mass in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay.
PIME’s Philippine superior, Fr. Gianni Battista Sandalo, said the “baseless reports” had caused them so much despair and agony.
“But if you’ll ask us if we received information, nothing. No one is coming out to inform us, it’s totally zero,” Sandalo said in an interview with the Inquirer.
Sandalo said that three weeks after the incident, “we are still in the dark.”
PIME, which includes 20 missionaries nationwide, criticized in its statement the lack of reliable information about the Bossi kidnapping.
They also lamented the lack of “clear identification of the kidnappers.”
“No confirmed sighting, no demand for ransom, no declaration of purpose for this sudden abduction. We know that Giancarlo cannot disappear like a ghost. He is too big and must be difficult to hide him,” the PIME priests said.
No one to trust anymore
Sandalo said it was difficult for them to just keep their silence and wait for nothing.
Claretian priest Angel Calvo, president of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), said Bossi’s family in Abbiategrasso in Milan and the PIME community “deserve to be informed of what is going on.”
Sandalo said the priests did not know who to trust anymore as far as information was concerned.
“We know for a fact that his captors (belong to) a large armed group and who certainly have cell phones and connections with various influential personalities and organizations. Why can’t they be identified? Why can’t they declare their purpose?” PIME said.
Kidnap was a staged drama?
The PIME missionaries felt the Bossi kidnapping might have been staged.
“By now, we feel this is a vicious drama, the false reports are part of the drama, and those who make these stories know that they are only deceiving the public. Why? Is this an attempt to cover up for some other purpose?” PIME asked.
“We are convinced that several people and organizations know the truth. Why do they reply like Cain, ‘I don’t know! Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Or are they the ones responsible for what happened to Giancarlo, as Cain was responsible to what happened to Abel?” PIME added.
Calvo said the prolonged captivity of Bossi indicated that “authorities are not really in full control of the situation and cannot even solve problems like Bossi’s case.”
Plea for understanding
“At this point, the feeling of insecurity and helplessness is becoming great,” he said.
He said the incident also indicated that the “whole society is held hostage by a bunch of armed men.”
Col. Jovencio Magalso, chief of the Task Force Bossi, appealed for more understanding.
“It is understandable (for them) to express their feelings and their impatience, but we assure them we are all doing everything (and we are even) going the extra mile to locate Bossi,” Magalso said.
“We are doing our best effort, we don’t rest, we hardly sleep and we move around 24 hours,” he said.
At least a battalion of soldiers, backed by the military’s Naval and Air Force assets, is involved in the operation. This is aside from the efforts of the Philippine National Police and the MILF.
In Camp Aguinaldo, the military said there were “positive developments” in its efforts to secure Bossi’s release but gave no details out of concern, it said, for the priest’s safety.
Armed Forces information chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said this was conveyed to him by AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo.
“(Cedo) stated that right now there are positive developments. As to what these developments are, he wouldn’t at this moment disclose to the media,” Bacarro told reporters.
Dolorfino now mum
He said Cedo would not even say if the so-called positive developments were happening in Zamboanga Sibugay or in the Lanao area—the two places where the military has deployed troops.
Bacarro said the AFP would “take advantage of these developments to … reach our end state, which is rescuing Father Bossi.”
AFP’s Metro Manila commander, Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, who heads a government panel coordinating with the MILF in going after criminal groups in Mindanao, said he would no longer issue statements to the media on the Bossi case.
Dolorfino said it would be Bacarro who would now do the talking about Bossi and did not explain why he was distancing himself from the media.
Dolorfino’s move to now keep quiet on the Bossi case came after he and Cedo gave conflicting statements early this week on the whereabouts of the Italian priest.
Cedo said Bossi and his kidnappers remained in Zamboanga Sibugay while Dolorfino said the priest was being held in Lanao, where the MILF was reportedly concentrating its operations in helping get Bossi back.
The last time Dolorfino spoke about Bossi was three days ago when he said that three emissaries, who claimed to have contact with the kidnappers, had left for Lanao to ask them to show “proof of life.”
The emissaries were given a cell phone by the military which they would use in contacting a designated person who could confirm, once contact with Bossi was established, that it was indeed the priest talking at the other end of the line. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño