ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali said the cases of the two European bird watchers abducted in the province in February were no longer under the jurisdiction of the crisis management committee he heads.
Sahali told the INQUIRER by phone on Saturday that Ewold Horn, 52, and Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, had been transferred by the Abu Sayyaf to Sulu as early as March.
He said the information regarding the transfer of the captives to the other province was relayed to him by “my friends and contacts with the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) in Sulu, including personal friends of mine and friends from local government.”
Sahali said this was the main reason he could not provide updates regarding the abducted foreigners.
“I no longer handle the crisis,” he said.
Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra, Sulu police chief, however, said there had been no evidence the foreigners were indeed transferred to Sulu. “The two Europeans are not here in Sulu, we have validated this information several times,” he said.
But Sahali said he believed his sources because there were also other indications the captives were no longer in Tawi-Tawi.
“There was no single communication established between the people I tapped to locate them and the people behind the abduction of the two foreigners,” he said.
Another indication, he said, was that officials from the Dutch and the Swiss embassies in Manila had stopped calling him.
“Here in Sulu, it would be difficult to hide the arrival of any non-resident, especially foreigners. But they are not here,” Freyra maintained.
He said the only kidnap incident they were dealing with now is the case of 62-year-old airport employee Carlos Tee, who was kidnapped on April 7.
Horn and Vinciguerra were kidnapped, along with Filipino bird watcher and guide Ivan Sarenas, while heading back to Bongao town after bird watching activities on Panglima Sugala town.
Sarenas was able to escape while two other Filipinos, the outrigger’s operator and a local official serving as their guide, were allowed to go home.