The local government of Dipolog City offers Php 100,000 reward money for any information that may lead to the whereabouts of Italian businessman and former missionary priest Rolando del Torchio, who was kidnapped by unidentified men last Wednesday, according to Philippine National Police (PNP) official on Friday. Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, PNP spokesperson, said the local government has designated cellphone number 09053321952, where the information could be relayed. Mayor also said the investigation and pursuit operation continued, particularly on two suspects identified from the video in CCTV. He said the two suspects were subjected to pursuit operation on Thursday but were able to leave before security forces arrived.

Meanwhile, Dipolog Bishop Severo Caermare urged the faithful to pray for the safety and immediate release of del Torchio. “I humbly ask everyone to please pray and collaborate for his safety and immediate release,” he said in a statement.With this, the Catholic prelate lauded the efforts of authorities on the incident. “I’m the Bishop of Dipolog, appreciate the efforts done by the local government, police and military,” he said.

Del Torchio, 56, was abducted at his pizza restaurant, “Ur Choice Café” inside the Andres Bonifacio College Compound in Dipolog City on Oct. 7. According to witnesses, four of these kidnappers posed as customers and, as seen on CCTV, another six came in and later forced del Torchio to go with them. They dragged him to a van and sped towards the coastal barangay of Miputak, in Manukan town, where they switched to two pump boats and disappeared. The gateway vehicle was later found near the shoreline.

Del Torchio was ordained a missionary of Vatican’s Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).  He was born on Nov. 16, 1958 in the town of Angera, northern Italy, and ordained priest in 1984. A PIME priest said that the abduction should not be linked to the conflict in Mindanao between Islamic separatist groups in Mindanao and the government. “We cannot say that it was made to boycott or to undermine the agreements reached. Also because in Dipolog [place of abduction ed] there are no conflicts between Christians and Muslims. It is more likely that the reason is not political, but economic, for a ransom,” said Fr. Giovanni Re, PIME regional superior in the Philippines in a statement.