DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 6, 2011) – Armed tribesmen have freed Wednesday a dozen hostages after escaping a military and police dragnet in the southern Philippines, officials told the Mindanao Examiner.
Officials said the hostages were freed after five days in captivity in the remote town village of La Purisima in Agusan del Sur’s Prosperidad town.
“Troops recovered the hostages in a forest where the gunmen abandoned them,” said Army Major Eugenio Julio Osias, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.
He said all 12 hostages were handed over to the local mayor Albin Magdamit. “The victims were also given medical attention and later reunited with their families. They are all okay,” Osias said.
Osias said troops were tracking down the tribesmen. “There is a pursuit operation right now and troops are tracking down the hostage-takers,” he said.
It was unknown why the tribesmen freed the hostages, but the release coincided with the increase presence of security forces in the village.
The tribesmen took civilians hostage to demand for the release of their jailed leader, Ondo Perez, who is also facing kidnapping and murder charges after he held dozens of villagers in 2009.
Perez and his followers are facing a string of criminal charges in connection with the killings of rival natives in the town where they are fighting for years over ancestral lands. Perez had demanded the arrest of another tribe leader Jun Tubay whom he accused as behind the killings of his sisters and relatives in 2008. 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 the gunmen have warrants for their arrest in connection to the murder of Tubay’s relatives. (Mindanao Examiner)