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Philippines: Update on kidnapped priest
NewsNotes, November-December 2009

Fr. Michael (Mick) Sinnott was released on Thursday, Nov. 12, after 31 days of captivity. The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns extends warm wishes to the Columban missionary family and gives thanks to God for Fr. Sinnott's safe release.

On October 11, Fr. Michael (Mick) Sinnott, a 79-year old Irish Columban missionary priest, was kidnapped in Pagadian, Philippines. He is a friend and colleague of several Maryknollers. Following is an update posted on the Columbans’  Australia/New Zealand website on Oct. 31. For more information, see the Columbans’ website.

“They are asking US$2 million as ransom money,” 79-year-old Father Mick Sinnott said in a weak voice on [an Oct. 31] video [obtained by the government negotiators who are responsible for handling the case.] ... . [Sinnott], who suffers from a heart condition added, “We are living in the open, in difficult circumstances. I am still in good health, even if I do not have the full medicines.”

... [He] named his captor as a commander [called] Abu Jayad, and appealed to Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Irish government and his compatriot members of the Columban Mission Society “who may have pity… to help so that I can get out of here as soon as possible.”

... Fr. Patrick O’Donoghue, [Columban regional superior] said that he is satisfied that the man on the blurry video with poor quality soundtrack is indeed Fr. Sinnott, but believes the words he spoke were not of his own composition. “He was alive and looked relatively well,” he added. He said that although he knows the video is possibly more than one week old, “There was a sense of relief to see him at all. But I also experienced a tremendous sadness at seeing him in this horrendous situation.” ...

On the thorny question of ransom, Fr. O’Donoghue said, “We do not pay ransom. I do not believe it right that ransom should be paid. It adds to everybody’s vulnerability.” He explained that is not only a policy of the Columban society, but all missionary societies working in the area. ...

[According to Fr. O’Donoghue, not paying ransom] has virtually been an accepted policy since [the 1970s]. He said that otherwise, missionaries and priests would simply become market commodities with a price on their heads.

The information officer for the provincial government, Allan Molde, said that the government crisis panel agrees with Fr. O’Donoghue and does not believe that any ransom should be paid. Instead, he said that the security forces would be asked to put more pressure on the kidnappers to free Fr. Sinnott.

A representative of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ... responsible for a special taskforce set up by his organisation to assist with the rescue of Fr. Sinnott, said that he does not know the of the name of the captor given in the video, but is aware of the general location in the lawless region where he is being held and likely identity of the bandits.

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