Two journalists missing, feared kidnapped

New York, October 2, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is concerned about the safety of television reporter Carlo Lorenzo and cameraman Gilbert Ordiales, who went missing on the southern island of Jolo, Sulu Province, on September 28. CPJ fears that the journalists may have been kidnapped.

Lorenzo and Ordiales, who work for GMA television broadcasters, were in Jolo to report on rebel groups in the region, according to Philippine and international news reports. The journalists were last seen after they met a group of armed men in the town of Indanan, according to an account by their driver. The driver left the group momentarily to check on his car, and when he returned, the journalists and the armed men had disappeared.

Before their disappearance, Lorenzo and Ordiales had made arrangements to interview rebels who are holding three Indonesian fishermen and four Filipino hostages, according to a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The report also quoted a local police chief who said that the journalists had arranged to interview members of a renegade faction of the Islamic separatist group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

It is not clear who may be responsible for the journalists’ disappearance, but in recent weeks, the Philippine army has escalated efforts to fight several rebel groups in the southern province of Sulu. The armed group Abu Sayyaf, which claims to be fighting for a separate Islamic state, has sought refuge in Sulu since last year, when the military waged an intensive campaign—with assistance from U.S. troops—on their former stronghold of nearby Basilan Island. The MNLF, which also advocates an independent Muslim state, signed a peace agreement with the government in 1996, but a breakaway rebel faction is still active in the province.

The Philippine military and local police are currently searching for Lorenzo and Ordiales, but officials have not confirmed that the journalists were abducted.