NATIONAL Police Director General Jesus Verzosa yesterday ordered investigators to gather evidence to support criminal charges that would be filed against the kidnappers of Irish missionary Fr. Michael Sinnot in Zamboanga del Sur.
Verzosa tasked a team of investigators from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Intelligence Group (IG) and the police office in Region 9 to pursue the case against the abductors of Sinnott.
The investigating team was placed under the operational control of the directorate for integrated police operations in western Mindanao.
Police said the suspects were initially identified as having ties with the 113rd Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Aloy al-Asree.
Debriefing information culled by the Military Intelligence Group in Zamboanga on Sinnott would likewise be integrated in the case.
Simultaneous with ongoing case build-up, police and military troops would continue pursuit operations against the suspects, officials said.
Verzosa claimed that constant pressure from police and military through their operations prompted Sinnott’s abductors to release the hostage after a month in captivity.
Witnesses’ accounts from the day of the abduction and statements given by Fr. Sinnot would be carefully documented and evaluated to form part of the evidence to support legal actions against the suspects, Verzosa said.
Verzosa said the release of Sinnott was unconditional and did not involve any ransom or special consideration.
Malacañang has expressed gratitude to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for brokering the release Sinnott.
The MILF turned the priest over to government officials in Barangay Sangali in Zamboanga City.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde described the gesture as a manifestation of the MILF’s sincerity and commitment to the cause of peace.
He said the Palace is now more hopeful than ever that “the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the MILF can resume formal peace talks in December.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made a similar observation, saying “the MILF central leadership played an indispensable role in securing the priest’s release.”
‘‘These circumstances underscore the obligation of both sides to maintain an environment conducive to the conduct of peace talks, which we all hope will bring lasting peace and progress to Mindanao,’’ a DFA statement reads.
The European Union also chimed in, noting that Sinnott’s release would make a positive effect on the peace negotiations. (pna)