Probe in abduction of released Caraga cop, DENR checkpoint extortion activities continue

by Ben Serrano

     February 20, 2011


            Camp Rafael Rodriguez, LIBERTAD, BUTUAN CITY (PNA) - Caraga Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Reynaldo S. Rafal today claimed investigations in the attack of the DENR-PNP-LGU checkpoint that lead to the abduction of released PO3 George Sabatin and allegations by the New People’s Army that extortion activities happened in said checkpoint will continue.


            Rafal said there will be no stones left unturned until truth will come out saying the public deserved the truth like who owned the private vehicles used in the checkpoint attack, whether it was used with consent or with coercion, intimidation or forced.


            Rafal said that if there is really evidence beyond reasonable doubt that there is extortion activities as alleged by the NPA rebels at said checkpoint then somebody must have to answer.


            NPA captors of Sabatin Agustin said the outpost, located just along the highway in Barangay Pulang Lupa in Trento, has been used as an ‘extortion machinery’ of the provincial government.


When Sabatin was taken by the NPA rebels on Feb. 1, two civilians were also killed in the same attack, who turned out to be flaggers or mamamara of the PNP and DENR personnel assigned in the outpost.


Roel Agustin II, spokesperson of the NPA’s Conrado Heredia Command said the victims, Fritz Mark Dimzon and Carlito Tumandag, were tasked to flag down vehicles passing through the said outpost.


Agustin said the victims were collecting money, as much as P1,000 each, particularly from trucks passing by the outpost that carry logs.


The practice was reportedly confirmed by Sabatin himself.


            Allegations that many DENR checkpoints engaged in asking money from traders, cargo truck operators and drivers and tree planters transporting their produce or planted log wood species have been a perennial problem for so many years.


            Some environmental groups and critics now jokingly tagged said government checkpoints as “cashpoints”.


            Official Caraga PNP regional information office report said PO3 George L Sabatin was  released by his captors the New People’s Army in Bagabaga Sitio Cogonon, Brgy Salvacion, Trento, Agusan del Sur around 12:45 noontime yesterday February 19, 2011.


 The report said Sabatin was handed to the NegotiatingTeam headed by Vice Governor Santiago Cane of Agusan del Sur.


At about 2:40 p.m. also yesterday, Sabatin was turned-over by the negotiating team to PSSUPT ISAGANI F GENABE JR, Deputy Regional Director for Operations and PO3 Sabatin’s family at Trento, Agusan del Sur Municipal Police office.


            Sabatin is now confined at a local private hospital here in Butuan City for medical treatment of his wounded leg and stress debriefing by the Philippine National Police, Rafal said.


                                                           No ransom paid nor NPA demands granted


            Although Rafal confirmed that Sabatin’s captors really demanded firearms, three baby armalites and M-203 grenade launcher in exchange for his release, the PNP particularly Caraga Police regional office did not heed on the NPA’s demands saying such demands were illegal, unlawful on the part of the PNP.


            “Noon demand nila yan pero di nasunod kasi bawal nga” Rafal said.


            Rafal said that as far as his office is concern, he did not heed to any of the demands and no payment was made in exchange of Sabatin’s release.


            Police and military official reports claimed an estimated 50 NPA rebels belonging to Guerilla Front (GF) 20 attacked the monitoring post of the Task Force Bantay Kalikasan of the Agusan del Sur Provincial Governor’s Office at Pulang Lupa, Trento, Agusan del Sur around 6:00 AM, February 1, 2011 on board an Isuzu forward six-wheeler truck color blue bearing plate number CDW 445, owned by Lolito Guyano.  


            The report also claimed that one team from Agusan del Sur Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) were on the area providing to government personnel monitoring water level of the Agusan River as part of Disaster monitoring when they were attacked.


            The report added that Police Officer 3 (PO3) Mario Sevillano was wounded and Police Officer 3 (PO3) George Sabatin was abducted while two (2) civilians namely Pletzmark Dimzon and alias “Lito”, both members of the said Task Force were killed.


            Said official PNP and AFP reports also claimed, two M16 rifles were taken by the communist terrorists as they withdrew towards Barangay Visayas of the said municipality on board another vehicle, Isuzu forward color red bearing plate number YAZ 846, owned by Bartolome Navalta, of legal age and a resident of P-4, Pulang Lupa, Trento, Agusan del Sur.


            But the report did not say if the private owners of the vehicles used in the NPA attack were being investigated, charged or not. (PNA/Ben Serrano) 

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