KIDAWAPAN CITY—It was a kidnap job that failed miserably.
Alert civilians, an active anticrime group, heavy traffic, quick response by lawmen and sheer luck saved a 73-year-old woman trader from kidnappers in Midsayap town in North Cotabato on Sunday night, police said.
One of the kidnappers was killed in a shootout with policemen and Army soldiers, said Supt. Renante delos Santos, Midsayap police chief.
Three others were arrested while another, believed to be the gang leader, was nabbed during a follow-up police operation later that night.
How it happened
Police pieced together the scenes of the doomed kidnap plot:
Manulita Cedeño, owner of Royal Drug Store, had just closed shop at 5:45 p.m. and boarded, along with a saleslady, a family-owned pickup truck. When they arrived at her home a few minutes later, the driver, Allan Cervantes, alighted to open the gate.
Four men boarded the vehicle while one of them, Jelon Pasandalan, struck Cervantes in the head with a .45-cal. pistol. As the gang sped away, members of the anticrime group, Palma, who were alerted by the kidnapping, gave chase. (Palma stands for the initials of the towns of Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap and Aleosan in the province’s first district.)
This forced the driver to try another route but he was caught in a traffic jam. As he kept pressing the horn, a traffic officer, PO3 Ulyssis Jose Coronado, responded to what he thought was an emergency and directed other vehicles to give way.
Coronado, however, noticed a woman crying for help inside the truck, so he approached it to check but was shot by Pasandalan. The lawman fired back, killing Pasandalan and creating a commotion.
Police and soldiers belonging to the 40th Infantry Battalion arrived at the scene, rescued Cedeño and her saleslady, and arrested two men—Mohammad Pagayao of Cotabato City and Digo Bangcal of Barangay (village) Pulon, Pikit, North Cotabato.
Delos Santos said the fatality, Pasandalan, was also from Barangay Pulon.
A fourth kidnapper managed to escape.
The two men told police investigators that they were promised P300,000 to seize Cedeño and bring her to Barangay Tumbras on the outskirts of Midsayap, where a motorized boat would take the victim to the Maguindanao marshland.
They pointed to Adam Sansaluna as the mastermind, Delos Santos said.
Lawmen, accompanied by one of the suspects, arrested Sansaluna in Barangay Sadaan, Midsayap. Sansaluna denied involvement.
“I would like to commend the citizen’s anticrime group for providing the police with timely and accurate information of the incident,” Delos Santos said. With a report from Williamor Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao