A photo released to the regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner, by Basilan provincial deputy governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul shows freed Zamboanga City trader Vicente Barrios shortly after his freedom Saturday, August 21, 2010. With Barrios are Basilan provincial deputy governor Al Rasheed Sakalahul (left) and Basilan military chief Brigadier General Eugenio Clemen. (Mindanao Examiner)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 22, 2010) – Kidnappers free an elderly local trader after two months in captivity in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.
Officials said Vicente Barrios, who was kidnapped while traveling at sea in Zamboanga City, was released late Saturday afternoon in the village of Bohe Mangal in Sumisip town in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.
“He is so weak and frail and could hardly walk, but the good thing here is that Vicente Barrios was freed unharmed,” said Al Rasheed Sakalahul, the provincial deputy governor.
He said villagers contacted him late Saturday to say that an old man was spotted near the riverbank of Bohe Mangal. “They told me the old man could not speak our dialect and that he is so weak, so I sent my nephew to see who this man was, and the poor man told my nephew that he is Vicente Barrios and we secured him right away,” Sakalahul said.
Sakalahul said the Barrios, bearded and frail, was alone when found by villagers. “He was only carrying a cane and his name, date of his kidnapping and a name of his captor a certain Commander Alex were engraved in that old cane,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.
No group or individual claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and officials would not say if ransom was paid by the old man’s family to the gang, but the kidnappers had demanded at least five million pesos in the past in exchange for Barrios’ freedom.
Police said Barrios, whose family maintains fish cages off Zamboanga City, was abducted by gunmen after he was intercepted at sea.
The abduction occurred a day after police commandos, backed by soldiers killed one of three gunmen tagged as behind the April 4 kidnapping of Swiss-Filipino Charlie Reith, 72, in Zamboanga City. Reith was also freed weeks later after private negotiators allegedly paid ransom to the kidnappers.
Kidnappings-for-ransom in Zamboanga City were not uncommon. Many foreigners and wealthy traders had been kidnapped in the past and released after their family paid huge ransom. (With a report from Jung Francisco)