12-year-old hostage in Agusan Sur freed

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews/04 April) – Gunmen who abducted on Friday15 persons in a hinterland village in this town and held them hostage released early tonight one of the victims, a 12-year-old boy.

Members of the crisis committee attributed the release to their decision to change the lead negotiator.

Marvin Jay Corvera was released around 6pm and was immediately brought to a local hospital,  Prosperidad Mayor Albin Magdamit said.

“Corvera is now in a hospital in Prosperidad because he is very sick,” said Magdamit, who chairs the crisis committee.

The mayor said the release of Corvera came after the crisis committee replaced the lead negotiator, Josefina Bajade, Agusan del Sur provincial social development officer, with the father of one of the abductors.

He said the new lead negotiator is Rolando Brital, father of Rejoy Brital, one of the six gunmen holding the hostages.

“Because he is the father of one of the gunmen, Brital can move freely and talk with the abductors. The release of Corvera is his doing,” Magdamit told reporters.

Magdamit said Bajade will remain in the crisis committee but will no longer take the lead in the negotiations.

“She (Bajade) is no longer allowed to go up in the mountains or have contact with the abductors,” he said.

“That order from the crisis committee is also for her safety,” he added.

Two teachers, Hipolito Lastimoda and Diosdede Cabantac were released by the gunmen last Sunday, bringing down the number of hostages still in their hands to 12.

Magdamit said the crisis committee agreed to review the criminal cases filed against Ondo Perez, leader of the 2009 kidnapping of 125 teachers and students in Sitio Maitum, Barangay San Martin, also in Prosperidad town.

The gunmen have demanded for the release of Perez in exchange for the hostages. They later raised the ante by insisting on the release of all members of the Perez group who are imprisoned for crimes ranging from hostage-taking to murder.

“It is impossible to release Perez without an order from a court. The suspects know that. What we can do is look on how to fast-track the cases without pressuring the court,” Magdamit said.

He said Perez is facing three murder cases filed in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur.

Magdamit said Perez was brought back to the Agusan del Sur provincial jail after a local court gave him temporary liberty to negotiate the release of the hostages last weekend.

“Unfortunately the plan for him to talk to his relatives did not work out. Perez is back in jail,” he said.

The police and military believed that the gunmen, who are all relatives of Perez, are all very young, between 15 and 17 years old. Their leader, Ken ken Perez, is only 17. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)