Agusan Sur Gov confident hostage crisis to end soon

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur  (MindaNews) –  Agusan del Sur Governor Adolf Edward Plaza is optimistic the hostage crisis would soon be over.

This, as two of the 15 hostages — teachers Hipolito Lastimado and Diosdideth Canbantac —  were sent down to the poblacion of Barangay La Purisima mid-afternoon Saturday to get food, on instructions they were to return or the remaining hostages would be killed. But the Crisis Management Committee prevented the two from returning to the forested area some three kilometers away, and later managed to secure the commitment from the abductors that they would release the two children by Sunday night.

The armed band is reportedly composed of teeners.

“The negotiation are running smoothly” Plaza said.

On April 1, at least 10 gunmen led by Rey Joy (not Navarro Alejandro as earlier reported) Brital, 19, abducted  10 teachers, two grade-schoolers, two motorcycle drivers and a passenger in Sitio  Balite in Barangay La Purisima here at about 4 pm.

On Saturday, Plaza activated  the local crisis management committee chaired by Prosperidad Mayor Albin Magdamit  to “immediately but peacefully” negotiate with the armed group.

Magdamit said Brital’s group took hostages to demand the release of detained Ondo Perez, also identified as a Manobo datu  and former member of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), who is facing kidnapping and multiple murder cases.

Brital is a cousin of Perez who now detained at the Provincial Jain in Patin-ay, Prosperidad.

Other hostage-takers were identified as Perez’ brother, Allan, 45; Allan’s son, Ken-ken, 15; and Ilag Perez, a relative of Perez.

In 2009, Perez and his armed group attacked the Maitum Elementary School and took 125 persons including children, hostage in Sitio Maitum, Barangay San Martin in Prosperidad.

Perez is one of the suspects in the massacre of the family of Jun Tubay. Police reports said Tubay and Perez’s group were engaged in a clan war which led to the alleged massacre.

Late Saturday night, a team of negotiators led by provincial social work and development office chief, Josefina Bajade went up to Purok 7 in Sitio Balite to bring food and medicines for the hostages according to Alfredo Plaza, provincial information office chief.

Plaza said Ondo Perez was with the team to supposedly meet with Brital’s group to negotiate for the release of two children, as one of them had fever. The abductors, however, refused.

At 8 a.m. Sunday, the negotiating team returned to the area to resume the negotiations.

Senior Supt. Nestor Fajura, chief of staff of  the police regional office in Caraga region, said the local CMC had secured a court order for  Perez’  temporarily liberty to allow him to participate in the negotiations.

According to Plaza, Perez’ mother, Aniana, 60, informed that negotiators  that only four persons-Rey Joy, Allan, Ken-ken and Ilag- were involved in Friday’s hostage-taking. (Alden Pantaleon with a report from Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)