After the attacks and kidnapping incidents in Agusan del Sur last week, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has launched a manhunt against members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“At present, we are mounting massive pursuit operations against the group of Sarayat. I cannot just divulge the exact place so as not to endanger the lives of our ground troops,” said Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Renato Sarayat alias Commander Friday, who leads the NPA’s Section Command 14 of the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC), is said to be the main objective of the ongoing massive military operations.
The VPO gold mining firm, owned by the Ocite family, in Barangay Baguyan, Rosario town was raided by approximately 30 rebels led by Sarayat on early morning of Thursday (July 5). The rebels were able to disarm the security personnel of the firm before ransacking the place and taking hostage of its employees, identified as operations manager and owner’s son Christopher Ocite, assistant operations manager Gani Altaya, and Joel Jayuma.
Said hostages were used as human shields but were released Saturday (July 7) evening for humanitarian reason, and without any ransom being paid, according to NPA spokesman for Mindanao Jorge Madlos.
However, Madlos was silent on reports that the VPO firm provided them five shotguns, nine caliber .45 pistols, an M14 rifle, one AK-2000, and a homemade M203 grenade launcher in exchange for freedom of their hostages. Further reports also said that the rebels later demanded P25 million ransom and additional firearms from the negotiating team for the release of the three mining executives.