More hostages freed

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — GUNMEN believed to be dismissed militiamen-turned bandits in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur yesterday released 10 more hostages, officials said.

Police Regional Office 13 director Chief Supt. Lino D. Calingasan said eight of those freed were women and one was a boy, now all under police custody.

The hostages freed yesterday were identified as Joselita Fernandez, Lilia Caube, Betita Dolorito, Eloisa Alaba, Fimpiana Avenido, Merly Sanchez, Zenaida Maglasang, Matty Jane Goden and Felix Lacre.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, police said the gunmen were still holding 48 hostages.

The suspects led by one Ondo Perez initially demanded that they be given new batteries and cigarettes, a stop to all ongoing military and police operations against them, the arrest of his rival clan leader named Jun Tubay, the presence of journalists in the area and the withdrawal of all criminal cases previously filed against them.

A Manobo tribe leader, Perez said he wanted Tubay arrested for killing seven of his relatives last year. However, police said that Tubay also filed criminal charges against Perez for the murder of his son and three relatives last February.

Calingasan said there has been no report on the terms of the release of the few hostages even as Perez warned the police and the military not to try a rescue attempt or he and his men will kill all their remaining hostages.

The tribal leader gave police one week to comply with their demands including the disarming of Tubay and his supporters who are believed to be armed with M-16 and Carbine automatic rifles, shotguns and World War 2 vintage rifles.

The government’s chief negotiator, Josefina Bahadi, expressed optimism that the gunmen would release their remaining hostages before evening yesterday. “We are optimistic they will be freed soon, the negotiator said.”

Chief Supt. Jaime E. Milla, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Eastern Mindanao said police commandos were about to corner Perez who is wanted for the killing of Tubay’s son and three relatives Thursday morning when he and his men grabbed 75 people including schoolchildren in Sitio Maitum in Barangay San Martin, Prosperidad town.

The gunmen eventually freed unharmed 16 children while two teachers managed to escape from captivity.

Milla said the suspects are dismissed members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit who have turned into banditry.