Monday, July 9, 2012

NPA frees 3 Agusan hostages

BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur, Philippines – New People’s Army (NPA) rebels have freed unharmed three officials of a gold mining company, including the owner’s son, they earlier had snatched in Barangay Bayugan, Rosario town.

Municipal police chief Elizer Pido said Christopher Ocite, operations manager of Vivencio P. Ocite Mining Enterprise and the owner’s son; Isagani Altaya, assistant operations manager; and security chief Joel Jayuma were released by their captors at around 8 p.m. Saturday after two days of captivity.

Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said about 30 communist rebels led by a certain Renato Sayasat attacked the mining firm’s office last Thursday and seized the three executives.

The guerrillas, reportedly disguised as soldiers, disarmed the firm’s security guards before ransacking its offices.

Osias said the military is now running after the rebels who raided the mining firm.

The NPA reportedly demanded P25 million, guns and termination of military operations against them in exchange for the release of the three hostages.

Osias urged local businessmen to work closely with authorities to avoid similar incidents.

“There should be close coordination with the military and the police. We do not enter the offices of private companies without prior notice,” he said.

Meanwhile, NPA spokesman for Mindanao Jorge Madlos said they freed the three hostages for humanitarian reason and that no ransom was paid.

But Madlos was mum on reports that the mining company gave them five shotguns, nine caliber .45 handguns, an M-14 Armalite rifle, a grenade launcher and ammunition in exchange for the safe release of its three officials.

He also denied the military’s claim that it was a certain Bajade and Fr. Lito Clase who facilitated the release of the three.

Madlos said they suspected the mining firm had a stockpile of weapons. The rebels have asked mining companies not to keep weapons that they say could be used by their security men to harass villagers. – With Alexis Romero, AP - By Ben Serrano