Cops probe tour guide rivalry as motive for abduction of 2 European tourists
ISABELA CITY, Philippines—Police are looking at rivalry among tour guides as one of the motives behind the abduction of two Europeans in Tawi-Tawi on February 1.
Chief Superintendent Felicisimo Khu, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Western Mindanao, told reporters that some third-generation children of Moro National Liberation Front members could be behind the kidnapping of Dutch Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra, who were on a bird-watching tour on the island province.
Khu said the locals have been acting as tour guides or escorts for foreigners on a bird-watching expedition, earning P250 per day per tourist.
“If one escorted one tourist for three days or a week, that would be a big amount,” he said.
“So we gathered na may selos na nangyari sa pagbibigay ng escorts sa mga foreign tourists (So we gathered there was rivalry in the giving of escorts to foreign tourists),” he added.
But Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali refused to consider the tour guides as suspects.
“We don’t have evidence against them,” Sahali said.
Even escaped Filipino captive Ivan Sarenas, in an earlier interview told the Philippine Daily that it was not fair to blame local guides for the kidnapping.
Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, provincial police chief, also did not want to consider the local guides as among the suspects. “That angle is part of our assessment with the crisis management committee members, but I don’t want to go further on that aspect.”
Jocson also said Sarenas refused to be interviewed by media “because he has already executed a statement for future legal actions.”
He said Sarenas also would not want his statements to endanger the lives of the victims.
Jocson described the search-and-rescue operation as like “looking for a needle under the sea.”
Some 5,000 security forces and volunteers have been combing the western part of Tawi-Tawi in search of the two Europeans.
“We have more than 3,000 hectares of forest here and the mission of that team is to make sure every part is inspected,” Sahali said Friday.
Horn, Vinciguerra and Ivan Sarenas were going back to Bongao from 14 days of sojourn in Panglima Sugala town when abducted at mid-sea.
Their escorts, a policeman and a local official, were allowed to leave, along with the boat operator.
Sarenas was able to escape by jumping into the waters and swimming toward an island, where local fishermen were fishing.
“We are hoping there will be positive news in the coming days,” Sahali said.
He admitted that Bern and The Hague have been closely watching the developments in the search-and-rescue operation.
He said officials from the Dutch and the Swiss embassies in Manila have been contacting him for updates on the local efforts.
“They keep on calling me every day, they want to know the progress of our efforts, they are very much worried over the safety of the two victims,” Sahali said.
Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also said that European diplomats have been in close contact with him.
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