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Town celebrates release of mayor

A welcome party yesterday greeted Mayor Henry Dano of Lingig, Surigao del Sur, as he tried to catch up with the dwindling hours of his first day of work, over 60 days after being a captive of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Not even a vehicle breakdown and a downpour could deter him and his wife from arriving on time for the afternoon program prepared by his subordinates and constituents.

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“Hopefully, we would not be too late for the program,” Dano told the Inquirer by mobile phone shortly before 2 p.m. yesterday.

His wife, Amelia, said their family spent Sunday night in Davao City. They were approaching Lingig town, some seven hours of land travel from Davao City, but a breakdown stalled their van.

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Dano was very eager to buckle down to work while the entire family was relieved that their ordeal was already over, she said.

Dano and his two Army bodyguards, Corporal Alfrey Desamparado and Private First Class Allan Saban, were turned over to representatives of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross and a local peace group by their NPA “custodians” in a hinterland village in Trento, Agusan del Sur, on Sunday afternoon.

For Amelia, her husband’s release meant extreme happiness not only for the family but also for the people of Lingig. In previous interviews, she maintained that he was innocent of the charges and accusations leveled against him, such as committing abuses and keeping a private army.

Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel, said Sunday’s meeting between the mayor and his family “was very emotional.”

“I couldn’t describe how happy I was upon seeing him again after so much a long time. All the anguish and pain I felt when he was abducted were all gone now. I’m very thankful,” Amelia said.

Dano and his escorts were seized by dozens of communist guerrillas disguised as National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents inside the mayor’s home in Lingig town proper on August 6.

Yesterday, the mayor and his entire entourage were to head straight to the municipal hall where a thanksgiving Mass and a short party awaited them, Amelia said. “We were told that local government officials, employees, members of civic organizations as well as his constituents were already waiting us for the program.”

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Instead of being reunited with their families, Desamparado and Saban were taken by men belonging to the 4th Infantry Division intelligence unit for possible debriefing.

The two were looking forward to spend time with their families in Davao City when men in civilian clothes laid claim on them and asked them to report to the 57th Infantry Battalion, their mother unit in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.

For only a brief time aboard the van that took them from the hinterlands in Trento to a stopover in Monkayo town’s St. Ignatius de Loyola church in Compostela Valley, they talked with and hugged their wives.

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TAGS: Armed conflict, Government Officials, Kidnapping, local government, New People's Army, rebellion, Regions
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