Bishop backs plan to rescue captive Filipinos in Libya

Duterte mulls sending in navy to help free three engineers abducted in July
Bishop backs plan to rescue captive Filipinos in Libya

Bishop Rufino Santos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People of the Philippine bishops' conference, has expressed support for a proposal to send a frigate to help rescue Filipinos kidnapped in Libya. (File photo by Mark Saludes)

 

A Catholic bishop in the Philippines has expressed support for a government plan to rescue three Filipino migrant workers abducted in Libya last month.

Bishop Rufino Santos, head of the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, said he supports President Rodrigo Duterte's proposal to send a frigate to help rescue the Filipinos.

"Yes we support," said the prelate in an interview. "We should show our solidarity and [that] we are serious about the freedom of Filipino abductees," said Bishop Santos.

The prelate also called on the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs to do its best to help rescue three Filipino engineers and a South Korean who were taken from a water project site on July 6.

"We appeal to our [Foreign Affairs Office] to exhaust all means for the safe freedom of our three Filipino engineers abducted in Libya," said Bishop Santos.

On Aug. 4, the Philippine Navy announced that its fleet-marine unit is preparing an "appropriate force package" to help the kidnapped Filipinos.

South Korea has already deployed the 4,000-ton warship Munmu the Great, which was part of anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

"Every life is important, precious. A single life is valuable," said Bishop Santos, adding that the Filipinos in Libya "have only best intentions to serve the country where they are in."

Last week, Duterte said the Philippines would send two warships to Libya to join efforts to secure the release of the kidnap victims.

"If they begin to hurt the three Filipinos there, I will send the frigate," he said in a speech in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao on Aug. 3.

The three Filipino engineers were working as technicians at a water plant in Libya when they were abducted.

A video shared on social media showed the four kidnapped workers with an armed guard seen behind them.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Elmer Cato said his office has been doing its best to ensure the "safe and early release" of the Filipinos.

Meanwhile, Bishop Santos called on undocumented Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates to avail of an amnesty program being offered by the host country.

"It is very beneficial and blessing for our undocumented [Filipino workers] to correct their immigration status or repatriate without penalty to our country," said the prelate.

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The program started on Aug. 1 and will run until Oct. 31 for migrant workers of various nations that have overstayed their visa to leave the country without any legal repercussions.

Migrant workers are being fined daily for overstaying their visas and are prevented from leaving until they pay up.

The Foreign Affairs Department said up to 30,000 Filipinos could be affected.

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