TAGUM CITY—New People’s Army rebels holding three men they earlier took as hostages from a mining company in Rosario, Agusan del Sur, on Thursday were asking money or guns, officials said on Friday.
Agusan del Sur Vice Gov. Santiago Cane Jr. told the Inquirer by phone that the rebels wanted P25 million in exchange for the freedom of Christopher Ocite, operations manager of VPO Mining; Gani Altaya, assistant operations manager; and Joel Jayuma, the firm’s security chief.
The three men were inside the compound of VPO Mining, which the Ocite family owns, in Barangay Bayugan 3 when about 30 rebels arrived early Thursday.
“The (rebels) disguised as soldiers and pretended to conduct an inspection at the mining firm, before announcing the raid,” Supt. Martin Gamba, spokesperson of the Caraga regional police office, said.
He said the rebels then disarmed the security personnel of the mining company and fled with Ocite, Altaya and Jayuma.
Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the rebels also carted away at least 17 firearms from the company’s guards.
The attack against the mining firm came barely a day after a convoy of police and Army troops were ambushed while escorting a group of provincial officials visiting Barangay Katipunan in Veruela town, also in Agusan del Sur. A tribal chieftain and a policeman were hurt in that incident.
Cane said the provincial crisis management committee has not stepped in as it wanted Rosario officials to resolve the hostage-taking crisis.
“The provincial government would step in upon request from the municipal crisis committee,” he said.
Cane said he was told the local crisis management committee was trying to establish communication with the NPA in the hope of securing the release of the hostages.
Osias said they have not heard of the P25-million demand but they learned, from town officials, that the rebels wanted a K3 light machine gun and an Armalite rifle before releasing the hostages.
“The local crisis management committee led by Mayor Jose Cuyos would convene later in the day for whatever development related to this incident,” Osias told the Inquirer by phone.