ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Authorities have activated a task force and a Crisis Management Committee (CMC) to address the abduction case of a former Italian priest in Dipolog City, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte.
Task Force Rolando, named after the victim Rolando Del Torchio, and the CMC were activated during an emergency meeting late Wednesday called by Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Uy, chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council.
Zamboanga del Norte Police Director Redentor Retusto was designated to head the task force, while Mayor Evelyn Uy was named the CMC chairperson.
Del Torchio was seized by seven gunmen around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday from his Pizza house -- UrChoice Bistro Café -- in the village of Miputak, Dipolog City.
The gunmen dragged and forced Del Torchio to board on a waiting gray van with plate number TMY-490 that sped to the boulevard, also in the village of Miputak.
The gunmen abandoned the van and transferred Del Torchio to a motorboat and sped to the high seas. Pursuing policemen recovered the van.
Retusto said they have coordinated with the Land Transportation Office and the Highway Patrol Group to determine the owner of the getaway vehicle.
Retusto and Superintendent Ranie Hachuela, Dipolog City police chief, are spearheading the pursuit operations to possibly rescue the victim in coordination with the military forces in the province.
Blocking forces by multi-stakeholders, to include the "bantay dagat" forces, were immediately established in the Triple "SB" areas that consist of the towns of Sibuco, Sirawai, Siocon and Baliguian.
The Triple "SB" areas are known as haven of lawless elements, to include kidnap-for-ransom-groups in the province.
Retusto said they believed the abductors along with their hostage are still within the territorial jurisdiction of Zamboanga del Norte.
Del Torchio, who was ordained priest in 1984, was a missionary of the Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere.
Del Torchio was born in Angera, a town in the province of Varese, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. He was assigned in 1988 in the nearby town Sibuco and stayed there until 1996. He moved to Dipolog City and worked with a non-government organization that provides assistance to farmers.
He left priesthood few years later and settled in Dipolog City until he opened the UrChoice Bistro Café.
Retusto urged the public to assist them in locating the whereabouts of Del Torchio by providing information. (Sunnex)