Abducted priest back, seeks to resume ministry in Zamboanga

| January 16, 2010

DESPITE his month-long kidnap ordeal in Mindanao, Irish missionary Fr. Michael Sinnott is back and wants to resume his ministry.

The 80-year-old Columban priest returned to the country Friday night after some vacation time in his homeland.

“It’s very nice to be back and I’m looking forward to going back to my work in Pagadian (City),” Sinnott was quoted upon his arrival by the news website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

Sinnott arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Friday at 10:30 p.m. having taken the Etihad Airways flight EY 428 from Abu Dhabi. He left for Ireland last Dec. 2.

He was met by Fr. Patrick O’Donoghue, the Columban regional director in the country, and fellow Columban priest Fr. Michael McGuire at the airport’s VIP lounge.

Sinnott said he was able to reunite with his relatives and friends in Ireland. He said he also met with top government officials and relatives who came all the way from London.

He also turned 80 years old last Dec. 19.

Clearance

While he hoped to get back to his ministry in Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur where he has been based since 1988 helping children with disabilities, Sinnott said he had yet to get clearance from his superiors given his advanced age and his month-long kidnap ordeal last year.

Should he be allowed to return to Pagadian City, Sinnott said he would like “to do the little bit I can for as long as I can.” He has already undergone a heart bypass.

Sinnott again expressed gratitude to all the Filipinos who prayed for his safety.

“I was amazed when I came out of there, there were a lot of people who prayed for me and I would like to thank them very, very sincerely from the bottom of my heart,” he said.

No to ransom

Sinnott, who has been in the Philippines since 1976, was kidnapped by yet unidentified armed men in Pagadian City on Oct. 11 last year.

He was having an after-dinner stroll at the compound of the Missionary Society of St. Columban when he was seized and hustled into a van and later transported to a boat.

Two days after the kidnapping, Maj. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, reported at least three sightings of the priest and his six abductors.

On Oct. 31, a multisectoral crisis management committee working for Sinnott’s release received a video showing the Irish missionary holding a copy of the Oct. 22 issue of the Inquirer as proof of life.

“My kidnappers are led by commander Abu Jayad. They are asking $2 million as ransom money,” Sinnott had said in the video.

Malacañang turned down the ransom demand of the kidnappers. Philippine church leaders agreed with the government’s decision saying that giving in to the ransom demand would turn priests into “commodities rather than missionaries.”

Freed after 31 days
On Nov. 3, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno claimed that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had a hand in the abduction of Sinnott and refused to accept the MILF offer to help in the rescue.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, however, denied that their members were involved in the abduction.

On Nov. 12, after 31 days of captivity, Sinnott was released by his abductors to four MILF members who were part of the task force working on the priest’s freedom.

Sinnott was released on the same day that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Manila, prompting speculation that it was timed to coincide with her visit.

Government officials, however, maintained that no ransom was paid for the priest’s release.

Arrests

In an interview, Sinnott also cleared the MILF of involvement in his abduction, saying a “lost command” and the “original lumad” (indigenous people) of Mindanao were responsible.

However, on Nov. 14, police filed kidnap for ransom and serious illegal detention charges against Saidamen Montaner, James Palwa, a certain Jimboy, and other unnamed MILF fighters.

National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa said the suspects belonged to the MILF 113th Base Command headed by commander Aloy Alsree, whom Puno had earlier tagged as the mastermind of the kidnapping. With Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research

 

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100116-247765/Abducted-priest-back-seeks-to-resume-ministry-in-Zamboanga

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