• Send page
  • Print page

Philippines: thinking of his family helped Eugenio overcome almost six months' captivity

15-07-2009 Interview

The ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, comments on the release of ICRC staff member Eugenio Vagni, and on the ongoing work of the ICRC in the Philippines.

 How was Eugenio released? Did the ICRC pay any ransom?  

First, let me emphasize our immense joy and relief that Eugenio has been freed unharmed, and that he is now back with his wife and daughter, and will soon be with his family in Italy.

In the early hours of 12 July, local time, Eugenio's captors handed him over to the vice-governor of Sulu, Nur-Ana I. Sahidulla. Just as the ICRC did not pay any ransom when Mary Jean Lacaba and Andreas Notter regained their freedom in April, it did not pay any for Eugenio's release. The ICRC's policy is not to pay ransom. Making exceptions to a longstanding policy such as this one would endanger the security of ICRC staff and the organization's capacity to work in conflict zones and other sensitive areas in many countries, including the Philippines.

After our three colleagues were abducted on 15 January, we spared no efforts to bring about their safe return. We were in regular contact with everyone involved in resolving the crisis, in particular the local and national authorities. We would like to reiterate our profound gratitude to all those who worked behind the scenes to bring Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio home safely.

 How was Eugenio able to cope during his six months in the jungle, and how is his health now?  

Eugenio says he kept thinking of his family and that he could not give up. He was determined to come back. Eugenio's diet was simple: he ate fish and rice all the time, sometimes with fruit. As for his health, he i s doing surprisingly well after having endured almost six months'captivity in very difficult conditions. The most important thing for Eugenio now is to take a rest and recover, and to spend time with his wife and children and the rest of his family in Italy.

 What does the ICRC have to say about kidnappings in general?  

We deplore all acts of kidnapping, which trample on fundamental humanitarian principles and international law. We understand the pain of all abducted persons and their relatives, and have a strong sense of solidarity with them. The ICRC remains concerned about other people still being held hostage in the southern Philippines.

 Will the ICRC continue to work in the Philippines?  

The ICRC remains committed to the people of the Philippines. We continue to assist and protect the victims of armed conflict and other violence in the country, particularly in Central Mindanao, where tens of thousands of families are still living in displacement centres. Together with the Philippine National Red Cross, ICRC staff are distributing food and household essentials such as soap and cooking oil to those who have been forced to flee their homes. We also continue to train prison staff and repair facilities in jails to help the national authorities resolve humanitarian problems there.