Manila (AsiaNews) – Unknown gunmen seized Rolando del Torchio, a former PIME missionary, in Dipolog City (Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao), where he owned the 'Ur Choice Bistro Café', an eatery near the Andres Bonifacio College.
Initial police reports indicate that six or seven gunmen, posing as customers, entered the eatery and forced Mr del Torchio to go with them. After they pushed into a big car, they took off. According to the police, the group then switched to a speedboat and disappeared.
Rolando Del Torchio, 57, comes from Angera (Varese, Italy). Ordained a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in 1984, he worked in Naples for a few years and was then sent to the Philippines, to Sebuco on Mindanao, not far from where he was kidnapped.
As a missionary, he worked hard to defend the rights of farmers and tribals against landowners, often putting his own life at risk. In 2001, he asked to live outside the Institute, remaining in Zamboanga del Norte. Subsequently, he left the priesthood for personal reasons.
Nothing is known about the kidnappers. Several Muslim guerrilla groups operate on the island of Mindanao. Some are engaged in talks with the Filipino government. Others abduct foreigners or locals for financial gain or to pursue their struggle against the authorities.
PIME has been present in Mindanao since the 1970s. One of Rolando Del Torchio’s colleagues, Fr Fausto Tentorio, was killed in 2011. Two other missionaries have been killed on the island. Private armed guards murdered Fr Tullio Favali in Tulunan, in the Diocese of Kidapawan, in 1985. Fr Salvatore Carzedda, who was involved in talks with Muslims, was assassinated in Zamboanga in 1992.
Two more missionaries have been abducted. Fr Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped in 1998 by a Muslim group but was released after about two months. A splinter group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) seized Fr Giancarlo Bossi in 2007 and released him after two months in captivity.