(UPDATE) Ex-Army man kidnapped in Zamboanga City

by Leila Vicente, ABS-CBN News Zamboanga

Posted at Feb 06 2010 09:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2010 12:57 AM

ZAMOBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Early Saturday morning, retired Master Sgt. Benjamin Almonte left his house to go fishing in Sitio Busug in Barangay Manicahan in Zamboanga City.

Relatives told authorities that as of 1 p.m. Saturday, Almonte has not yet returned home.

A certain “Boy,” a fisherman, informed the Almontes that 4 armed men onboard 2 pump boats forcibly took the 55-year-old retired soldier.

The witness also said the suspects manhandled Almonte so that they can transfer him to their vessel. They then fled towards an unknown direction.

“He was transferred to another pump boat. There are 2 pump boats, 4 men were onboard, all are wearing bonnets,” the witness said in his local dialect.

Authorities, meanwhile, were able to recover Almonte’s banca, including his catch.

Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat has directed both the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to recover Almonte the soonest possible time.

Permanent detachment

Village officials, meantime, reiterated their appeal for a permanent police and military detachment along the coast of Barangay Manicahan.

Barangay chief Editha Casinio said that residents received threats of kidnapping years back. She added that the coastal areas in her barangay serve as a jump off point of lawless groups most of the time.

“We appeal to the local officials to implement our request to establish a permanent detachment where policemen and the military can stay,” she said.

Relatives of Almonte refused to give statements to the media. But Casinio said she was told by the Almontes that the victim is hypertensive, diabetic and is also suffering from asthma.

The last kidnapping incident in Zamboanga City was on January 23, 2009 when 3 teachers were abducted off the coast of Landang Gua Island.