07/20/2007 | 01:28 PM
Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi, held hostage in Mindanao for 39 days, was presented in Malacañang to reporters on Friday past 1 p.m. alongside President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The freed priest appeared to hold back tears as he commented on the 14 Marines killed while searching for him.
When asked what he felt of the slain Marines, 10 of whom were beheaded and mutiliated, in an attack while they were searching for him in the island-province of Basilan, Bossi said: “I felt so sorry. In a way I feel responsible for them.”
When he commented on the Marines’ fate, Bossi’s voice broke as he seemed to hold back tears when he stepped back from the microphone.
Bossi thanked “all those who helped” bring about his release.
Italian Ambassador Rubens Fideli also praised the Armed Forces and police for their “tremendous work” on the ground.
Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said Bossi was held by a group of 14 men but refused to disclose the names or affiliation saying only it is “a group associated with kidnapping”.
When asked if the kidnappers were members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, as Bossi said the abductors introduced themselves, Puno said it was “not necessarily so.”
Bossi was released Thursday night in Karumatan, Lanao del Norte. He was abducted in nearby Zamboanga Sibugay province last June 10.
Puno said that the government position paid no ransom, saying security forces forced the kidnappers to give up Bossi.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which owned up to the attack on the Marines, said Bossi’s release should ease tension caused by the bloody Basilan encounter.
The MILF insist the Basilan firefight was started by government troops when they entered their stronghold. The Moro rebel group, which is holding peace talks with the government, also said the encounter left five of its members and a Muslim cleric dead.
MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) vice chairman Dr Saffrullah Dipatuan said Friday that Bossi’s release underscores the MILF’s “sincerity and commitment” for his rescue.
“We expect the tension in the Basilan encounter to ease. Bossi’s release shows he was never in Basilan,” Dipatuan told radio station dzBB. –GMANews.TV