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2 policemen abducted in Surigao del Norte

By MIKE U. CRISMUNDO, with additional report from Roel N. Catoto

BUTUAN CITY – Authorities are now in pursuit of several armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) after they reportedly snatched two policemen Monday in Barangay Bad-as, Placer town, Surigao del Norte.

A flash report received by the tactical command and action center of Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) identified the abductees as Police Officer 2 Alfredo Lauro Degamon, Jr. and Police Officer 2 John Paul Mondaya Diverte, both assigned at the Placer Municipal Police Station (MPS).

The two were said to have been seized while manning a police outpost at a portion of the national highway in Barangay Bad-as.
“They were nabbed while performing duty as beat patrollers at 1:40 p.m. Monday by an undetermined number of armed men believed to be members of New People’s Army (NPA),” the report said.

The assailants, supposedly wearing Criminal Investigation and Detection Group uniforms, escaped with their captives on board a rented Starex van, which was later found abandoned in Sitio Alimatoc in Barangay Mabini, Placer.

The operators of the van, Benjie Besing, 56, and Donald Pitogo, 46, are now under police custody. Both maintained they have no idea their passengers were armed and dangerous. They claimed they were asked to disembark from the vehicle before the crime was carried out.

The Surigao del Norte PPO immediately reactivated the Crisis Incident Management Task Group after confirmation of the abduction.

All police stations in the area were also alerted and Condition Situation Response System (CSRS) Level 3 was activated by the regional command of PRO 13.

The Army’s 30th Infantry Battallion (30th IB) and the Surigao del Norte Police Public Safety Company are leading rescue and pursuit operations.

Lt. Col. Allen Raymund Tomas, commanding officer of 30th Infantry Battalion, said the abduction is in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

PRO 13 Regional Director Chief Supt. Rolando B. Felix has ordered Surigao del Norte Police Provincial Office (PPO) director Senior Supt. Antony B. Maghari to closely supervise the operations.

“This is another desperate move of the NPAs, as our government forces stepped up its all-out operations against them,” said Chief Inspector Renel E. Serrano of PRO 13 in an interview.

The municipal crisis management committee of Placer town conducted an emergency meeting yesterday to arrange negotiation for the safe release of the policemen.

Meanwhile, in a live interview yesterday morning on RPN-DXKS, a local radio station, a certain Ka Oto, alleged spokesperson of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee, confirmed the abduction was carried out by members of Guerilla Front 16 B, headed by a Ka Lucas.

Ka Oto said the two abducted cops are to be investigated following complaints they have been involved in Extra Judicial Killings (EJKs).

He went on to assure the parents, relatives and friends of the abducted policemen “they have nothing to worry because they (abducted policemen) are in safe condition and that their rights are being respected by the custodial force of the NPA.”

In November 2014, the rebels kidnapped three police officers whom they eventually released months later to then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In July last year, NPA combatants also abducted four policemen in Malimono town, also in Surigao del Norte. The victims were released months later following negotiations led by local religious groups, provincial and town officials.

Pfc Erwin Salan of the 30th Infantry Battalion was abducted by the NPA early this year in Alegria town. He was freed late April.