ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / December 11, 2009) – Armed tribesmen who are holding dozens of civilians in the southern Philippines have freed 12 more hostages as negotiations to free the remaining captives continue Friday, police said.
Police said the three hostages were released at around 10.30 a.m. and this was followed by 9 more in the village of San Martin in Agusan del Sur’s Prosperidad town where gunmen are still holding 45 civilians since Thursday.
A provincial social worker who is negotiating for the release of the hostages, Josefina Bahadi, said she is still convincing the gunmen to free the other captives. “We are still negotiating with them and we hope they would safely free all the hostages,” she said.
Police said more than a dozen armed are guarding the hostages who are being held in three thatched houses in the village where security forces have surrounded them.
“Negotiations are going on for the safe release of the remaining hostages,” a regional police chief Lino Calingasan said.
He said the gunmen, led by Ondo Perez, on Thursday freed 18 mostly school children. Most of the gang members are facing a string of criminal charges. They originally held 125 people, but 50 of them managed to escape and inform police about the incident.
Perez also demanded the arrest of another tribe leader Jun Tubay whom he accused as behind the killings of his sisters and relatives last year. Both families are locked in a bitter clan war that had killed about a dozen people from both sides.
Perez said they took the hostages to shield them from being arrested by the police and demanded authorities to drop all charges against them in exchange for the safe release of the captives.Police flatly rejected the demands and said they have warrants for their arrest in connection to the murder of Tubay’s relatives. (Mindanao Examiner)