Missionary´s Release in Philippines Stirs Questions

Reports of a Ransom Concern Bishop

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MANILA, Philippines, APRIL 11, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Reports that governmental institutions paid a ransom for the release of a kidnapped Italian missionary have triggered controversy.

Bishop Zacharias Jimenez of Pagadian, who worked hard for the release of Dehonian Father Giuseppe Pierantoni, wants to find out exactly what happened. The priest, who had been kidnapped on Mindanao Island, was freed Monday.

«Contrary to initial reports, it is not true that there was a confrontation between the kidnappers and government troops before Father Pierantoni´s release,» Bishop Jimenez told the Misna missionary agency.

«In reality,» he said, «the missionary was transported in a vehicle around 2 p.m. to Tungawan, in the Zamboanga Sabugay province, where he was consigned to the national police. But everything took place in a tranquil manner.»

Another controversial factor regards the payment of a ransom. The Philippine government denies having paid any money for the release, given Manila´s no-ransom policy. Other sources say that 10 million pesos were paid to the kidnappers.

«It is a delicate issue, but all I can say is that when the kidnappers contacted me over the phone for the first and last time on March 8, they in fact spoke of 10 million pesos, which I was, however, not able to give,» the bishop continued.

Another obscure point is the identity of the kidnappers. «I believe that it was a ´last command´ of the MILF [the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is engaged in peace talks with the government]. I also feel that some soldiers were involved,» Bishop Jimenez added.

Father Pierantoni, 45, will depart from the capital for Italy, probably this weekend.

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