Freed hostage asked for a smoke, shaver
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Looking frail but smiling, retired Italian priest Rolando del Torchio stepped out of the Don Basilio Navarro Hospital on Saturday, a day after being released by suspected Islamic militants who held him hostage for six months.
Waving to journalists and dressed in a white shirt, red cap and slippers, the former missionary turned pizza parlor operator walked to a waiting ambulance that would take him to the airport where a private plane bound for Manila waited.
“The victim is emaciated. He has lost a lot of weight compared with what we saw in his old pictures,” regional military spokesperson Maj. Filemon Tan told reporters.
Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Friday evening freed Del Torchio after they snatched him at gunpoint from his pizza restaurant in Dipolog City on Oct. 7 last year.
While the circumstances behind his release remained uncertain, an Inquirer source said he was freed by his captors at an undisclosed location in Sulu after a P29-million ransom was reportedly paid.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said del Torchio was recovered by police around 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Jolo port in Sulu.
“Del Torchio was recovered by the unit of Sulu Provincial Police Director Supt. Wilfredo Cayat [and those from the] Coast Guard, maritime police and the Anti-Kidnapping Task Force,” Hataman said.
The authorities found Del Torchio late Friday aboard a ferry docked in Jolo, the main Abu Sayyaf stronghold.
Tan said Del Torchio asked for a cigarette and a shaver when he arrived at the military hospital where he stayed overnight. “He said he was tired and wanted to freshen up,” the military official said, adding that the former missionary was not yet ready to talk to media.
Chief Supt. Miguel Antonio, director of the Western Mindanao Police Office, said they had initially suspected a local group of being behind Del Torchio’s kidnapping, and that it was not the first time he was abducted.
As a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Del Torchio was assigned to Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, from 1989 to 1994. With an AFP report