ZAMBOANGA CITY—Police and local government officials remain clueless about the location of the Europeans who were kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi on February 1.
Governor Sadikul Sahali told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday that they did not even know the motive of the abduction.
“We are all clueless until now,” he said, adding that it made him think that the abduction was politically motivated.
“Is this abduction a simple vengeance against me? Is this beyond political like an act of terrorism or pure kidnap for ransom?” he said.
Since the abduction, Sahali said, “not a single call or a text message or a letter” was sent by the abductors.
Village officials in Tawi-Tawi’s 11 towns have been tapped to assist government forces in combing their respective islands to search for victims Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerrra and Dutch Ewold Horn, who were in the province on a bird-watching trip.
Senior Superintendent Rodelio Jocson, the provincial police chief, told the Inquirer that they believed, as of Wednesday, that the captives were being kept on one of the islands in the province.
“What I can say is that they are in a forested area, and just imagine we have 307 islands and islets here covering about 3,000 hectares and we are told the two Europeans were kept in one of them,” Jocson said.
Jocson could not say how many local leaders have joined the search-and-rescue operations. He said Filipino Ivan Sarenas, who escaped from being kidnapped, has joined the search.
Jocson said he was confident Horn and Vinciguerra have not been moved out of the province.
“If they were transferred to Sulu, by this time we would be getting information about captors or captives establishing contacts with either their relatives or to our government, or a negotiation may have been established. But as of today, we have not monitored anything,” Jocson said.
He added that it would “not be easy” for the suspects to bring the victims to Sulu, the nearest province from Tawi-Tawi, because of the naval blockades and the ongoing pursuit operations conducted by the government forces against Abu Sayyaf Group bandits.
Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said he had instructed the crisis management committee of Tawi-Tawi to “intensify the efforts to locate the victims.”
“Involve the communities because I know the villagers are afraid of military operations in their areas, and that is the last thing they would want to happen,” Hataman said.
Hataman also called on civil society organizations and religious groups to help locate the two Europeans.
But more than a week after the abduction, authorities still do not have an idea where the victims are.
Sahali said embassy officials of The Netherlands and Switzerland have been calling him twice a day, “but like me, they have not received any calls.”