Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday welcomed the safe release of International Red Cross volunteer Eugenio Vagni but reminded the government about the plight of three teachers who remain in captivity in Basilan.
"The end of Mr. Vagni's ordeal should convince those working behind the scenes to exert more effort in securing the release of other Abu Sayyaf hostages," he said.
The three teachers were abducted by last March 13 off the island barangay of Bangkaw-Bangkaw, Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay while they were on the way home.
Jocelyn Enriquez, Jocelyn Inion and Noemi Mandi, who all taught at Bangkaw-Bangkaw Elementary School, were then reportedly turned over to the group of Furuji Indama, an Abu Sayyaf Group commander based in a coastal village in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan.
"We must take all steps possible so that these teachers can be reunited with their loved ones as soon as possible," Escudero said.
There have been reports that Mandi died in captivity, although this has yet to be confirmed.
The Abu Sayyaf Group is a band of radical fundamentalists tagged as a terrorist organization with links to Al-Qaida by the US government.
Nearly 200 people have been kidnapped by the group since 2000, including foreign aid workers, tourists and teachers. Most were released only after huge ransoms were made.
It is estimated that the group has been paid at least P260 million from kidnappings.