Philippines: ICRC staff enter third month in captivity
Friday 20 March marks 65 days since ICRC staff members Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter were abducted in the southern Philippines. The ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, comments on the current situation.
Have you heard from your colleagues recently? How are they doing?
The Chairman of the Philippines Red Cross, Richard Gordon, was able to speak to Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas in the presence of the ICRC yesterday, 19 March. We were relieved to hear their voices and to know that they were together.
Obviously, they have gone through an extremely difficult time, particularly in the past few days, and they are tired, both physically and emotionally. Given the circumstances and the immense stress, they are doing remarkably well.
We hope this ordeal will be over as soon as possible and that they will soon be back with their families again.
This week there were reports of gunfire and threats from the people responsible for the abduction of your colleagues. What is the current situation?
It has been a difficult week for our colleagues and, of course, for their families and everyone at the ICRC. We were extremely worried about their safety and we urged the authorities to take the measures necessary to resolve the crisis. We also appealed to the abductors'sense of humanity and asked them to avoid taking any action that could endanger the lives of our colleagues.
We are doing everything we can to achieve a positive outcome as rapidly as possible. Many people inside and outside the Red Cross are working to make this happen. We are counting on everyone involved to do their utmost to ensure the safe and unconditional release of Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio. Their well being must come first and no action should be undertaken that could put their lives in danger. We reiterate our appeal to the kidnappers to let them go.
Do you have any clue as to their current location?
It is very difficult to know precisely where they are. Following fighting in the area where our colleagues were being held they had to move quickly, leaving some of their supplies behind. We are therefore looking at how we could send them a few personal items.
Can you comment on the article published in the Philippine media, which quotes Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas?
We have taken note of this article and we regret the manner in which it was written. We do not wish to comment on the content. Our colleagues are being held hostage, and we do not know under what circumstances they were speaking.
How are the families coping with the ordeal?
They’re suffering horribly, and sensationalist headlines and news reports do not help. This week’s events have been particularly difficult. We are doing our best to keep them informed, comfort them and give them the support they deserve. We hope it will not be long before Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas are back home with their families.