NPA rebels ask P25 M in exchange for 3 mine execs, says vice govBy Frinston Lim
TAGUM CITY, Philippines—Alleged New People’s Army rebels holding three mining company executives hostage following a raid on a mine site in Rosario, Agusan del Sur, are asking for P25 million in exchange for the hostages, the province’s vice governor said Friday.
But a military official said he was unaware of the cash ransom demand, saying he had been told by Rosario municipal officials the abductors of the three mining company officials wanted only firearms.
Agusan del Sur Vice Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. told the Inquirer by phone that the rebels wanted P25 million in exchange for the freedom of Christopher Ocite, operations manager of VPO Mining; Gani Altaya, assistant operations manager; and Joel Jayuma, the company’s security chief.
The three men were inside the compound of VPO Mining, which the Ocite family owns, in Barangay Bayugan 3 when about 30 rebels arrived early Thursday.
“The (rebels) disguised as soldiers and pretended to conduct an inspection at the mining firm before announcing the raid,” Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of the Caraga regional police office, said. He said the rebels then disarmed the security personnel of the mining company and fled with Ocite, Altaya and Jayuma.
Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the rebels also carted away at least 17 firearms from the company’s guards.
The raid came barely a day after a convoy of police and army troops were ambushed while escorting a group of provincial officials visiting Barangay Katipunan in Veruela town, also in Agusan del Sur. A tribal chieftain and a policeman were hurt in that incident.
Cane said the provincial crisis management committee has not stepped in as of yet as it wanted Rosario officials to resolve the hostage situation. The committee was trying to establish communication with the NPA in the hope of securing the release of the hostages, he said.
Osias said he and other military officials had not heard of the P25-million demand but they learned from town officials that the rebels wanted a K3 light machine-gun and an Armalite rifle before releasing the hostages.
“The local crisis management committee led by Mayor Jose Cuyos would convene later in the day for whatever development related to this incident,” Osias told the Inquirer by phone.
Col. Romeo Gan, commander of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade, said the incident proved the military’s theory that the NPA has degenerated to plain banditry.
“Motivated by their own selfish interests, the NPAs have neglected their ideology for a long time now and have become mere rogues and bandits preying on the rich and the poor,” he said.
The Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City, one of the military’s two major commands in Mindanao, said the NPA remains its biggest headache as far as the island’s peace and order is concerned.
“More than half of the CPP-NDF-NPA guerilla fronts in the country are operating in Mindanao, making it still the main threat to the island’s security,” said Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Eastmincom commander.
Segovia said 27 NPA fronts operate in the Davao and Caraga regions, prompting the military to declare the areas as priorities in its anti-communist campaign.
“In August 2000, Davao Region was the only identified priority area of the government in terms of security against the rebel movement. However, recently, the attention has shifted to Caraga Region due to several incidents involving NPA operations, [involving] among others, extortion activities specifically on mining, agri-business, and other business entities,” he said.
(With reports from Bobby Lagsa and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao)