In this photo released by the Philippine National Police, shown is kidnapped Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi, left, in Lanao del Norte province on his way to Zamboanga City shortly after his release in the volatile southern region Friday July 20, 2007. Bossi, who was held hostage for over a month in the southern Philippines, said he lost 15 pounds (6.8 kilos) on a meager diet during his ordeal but was not threatened by his Muslim rebel captors. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/PNP Recom 9 HO)
Freed Italian Catholic priest Giancarlo Bossi is escorted by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno during a news conference Friday July 20, 2007 at a police base in southern Zamboanga City. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)
ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 20 Jul) – Philippine leader Gloria met Friday with freed Italian Catholic clergy after he was flown to Manila from the volatile region of Mindanao.
Arroyo spoke with Fr Giancarlo Bossi in a private room in Malacanang Palace. After the closed door meeting, Bossi said the President had congratulated him on his courage during his lengthy ordeal.
“We rejoice over the safe release of Father Bossi. We thank our soldiers, police and concerned civilians who valiantly worked for his freedom. Father Bossi is now in good hands. We pray that he could soon gather his strength and recover from his ordeal,” Arroyo said in a statement.
Bossi, kidnapped June 10 in the town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province, was released by rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels late Thursday and fetched by senior police officials in Karomatan town in Lanao del Norte province.
The 57-year old clergy from Milan said Arroyo explained that people had been working hard to secure his release. “She told me that many people had been working hard for my freedom,” Bossi said, adding, he was also told that 14 marine soldiers had been killed while they were searching for him on Basilan island last week.
Bossi had cried every time reporters asked him about his feeling on the death of the marine soldiers, ten of them beheaded.
Regional police chief Jaime Caringal brought the priest to Zamboanga City after they fetched him in Lanao del Norte. “He was released after negotiations,” he told reporters in Zamboanga City.
Bossi was barefoot and dirty when he arrived at a tightly guarded police camp.
The priest was frail and looked haggard. Police escorts said Bossi took a bread while in the car on their way to Zamboanga City and was hungry. In Zamboanga City, he was ate a bowl of noodles.
Bossi was later examined by a doctor and then phoned his family in Italy to say that had been freed. He said he was fed with salt and rice and sometimes with dried fish during his 39 days in captivity.
He said passed the time by praying and thinking about his parish and family and friends. Bossi said he was not hurt by his captors. “I never had the sensation that they wanted to kill me, nor did I ever receive a death threat or violence of any kind,” he said.
”Only the food wasn’t great: rice, salt and dried fish. As a result I lost some weight. But I also stopped smoking; I haven’t touched a cigarette since June 27.”Bossi, from the Papal Institute for Foreign Missions, said he wanted to return to his parish in Payao town in Zamboanga Sibugay to be reunited with the locals, instead of going home to Milan.“I want to go back to Payao and help the people there,” he said. “I have already talked to my family. I told them I would not go back to Italy. I want to stay here for a while.”Philippine Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, who fetched Bossi in Zamboanga City, said no ransom was paid in exchange for the safe release of the priest. “There was absolutely no ransom paid for his release,” Puno said.He said a former town mayor of Basilan, Hajarun Jamiri, helped in the negotiations that led to Bossi’s release.Bossi said the kidnappers demanded P50 million for his release.Pope Benedict XVI received the news of Bossi’s release with great joy, said Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi.
Last week, the Pope said that he was praying daily for Bossi, and Italy sent a a special envoy Margherita Boniver to Zamboanga City to try to work for his release.
On Tuesday, the Papal Institute for Foreign Missions said it had established contacts and negotiating with Bossi’s kidnappers.
“We are waiting for positive developments,” a PIME missionary in Zamboanga City and himself former kidnap victim Fr Luciano Benedetti said. “These days we have felt the sympathy of so many people and this bodes well that it might be persuasive and lead to Father Bossi’s release.”
Bossi was the third Italian priest kidnapped since 1998 in southern Philippines.
Rogue MILF rebels kidnapped Benedetti, 52, in Zamboanga del Norte province in 1998 and held for nearly 10 weeks until he was freed in exchange for a huge government ransom.
Benedetti now has been following developments in the Bossi kidnapping case closely from the start, from the regional house of PIME in Zamboanga City.
In 2001, renegade MILF rebels and members of the bandit group called Pentagon Gang also snatched Father Giuseppe Pierantoni as the 44-year-old from Bologna said mass in the parish church of Dimataling town in Zamboanga del Sur.