Bishop offers support, aid to freed Pinoy hostages in Somalia
A Catholic bishop is offering pastoral support and other assistance to the five Filipino crewmen who were recently freed by Somali pirates after more than four years in captivity.
"We in the Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) are greatly gladdened by the news that five Filipinos were among 26 crewmen freed by Somali pirates," said Bishop Ruperto Santos, ECMI chairman, in a statement Thursday.
The five Filipinos were identified as Arnel Pregellana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Antonio Auxtero Libres, Jr., Edwas Akes Tininggal, Jr., and Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit.
ECMI is under the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
"We offer to them our pastoral and spiritual support and other assistance that are in our commission’s capacity to provide," Santos said.
"We welcome them home. We assure them of our continued prayers, that the loving embrace of their families and friends and the entire country will ease their re-entry into normal lives."
Somali pirates freed over the weekend 26 Asian sailors — from China, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan — held captive in a small fishing village for more than four years since their ship was hijacked in the Indian Ocean.
The sailors were held in Dabagala near the village of Harardheere some 400 km (250 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, a fishing hamlet that became known as Somalia's main pirate base at the height of the crisis.
Balbero, in a report on BBC, said he and his companions felt "like the walking dead" during their captivity, as food and water were scarce.
"Their ordeal has no doubt been harrowing," Santos said of the Filipino victims. "Away from family, anxious and fearful about their uncertain faith, they must have suffered great pain and anguish."
The Filipinos are expected to arrive to the country on Friday. —KBK, GMA News