MANILA -– The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has received unverified reports that the seven Filipino workers abducted in Libya this year are still alive and that some of them have been made to work as laborers by their abductors, an official said Friday.
Renato Villa, DFA Senior Special Assistant at the Office of Migrant Workers Affairs, said this was the information gathered by Philippine diplomats from the Filipino community in Libya who also said that the kidnappers may be members of the extremist Islamic State militants.
“There are reports that they are safe and are being used as laborers by their abductors,” Villa told reporters at a media roundtable forum in Manila.
The seven are all oilfield workers captured by unidentified armed men in two separate incidents in February and March, highlighting the security risks confronting the remaining 4,000 Filipino workers there who refused to leave despite an ongoing civil disturbance and escalation of armed conflict.
“Those abducted, they are skilled workers,” he said. “One of them is a mechanic and we were told that he does maintenance and repair work for vehicles and the other one, a computer programmer, is reportedly assigned to work on the ISIS propaganda because ISIS is very active (in using the web),” he said.
Another Filipino, Villa added, does laundry for his abductors.
Despite these information, Villa said they have yet to confirm if these reports are true.
He said the Philippine embassy usually gets update from the employers of the Filipinos, who also serve as its intermediary.
“There’s no news about them. Some say it’s ISIS, some say it’s not. We have not received any proof of life or death,” Villa said. “No word from the abductors, too.”
Villa said the department remains in touch with the family to assure them that the government is exerting all efforts to find their loved ones.
“They were asked to come to the DFA and they met DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario who reassured them that we will do all we can to recover them safely to be reunited with them,” he said.
Libya does not have a functioning government amid months-long armed hostilities.
The Philippine government ordered the mandatory evacuation of all its workers after placing Libya under crisis alert level 4 – the highest security warning given by the Philippines on countries that pose security risks to Filipino travelers and workers due to armed conflict or disaster.