Gov’t negotiating team admits giving “love offering” to NPA rebels for release of captive cop

by Ben Serrano

     February 25, 2011


            BUTUAN CITY (PNA) - An influential member of the government negotiating team during press conference here yesterday morning admitted giving “love offering” to the NPA rebels at the height of the negotiations for the safe release of PO3 George Sabatin in Trento, Agusan del Sur. 

            After 19 days in captivity, Sabatin was released by NPA rebels who snatched him after daring attack by some 50 fully-armed NPA rebels at the DENR-LGU Forest Product checkpoint in Barangay Pulang Lupa, Trento, Agusan del Sur last February 1 2011. 

            Sabatin was released by the NPA rebels last February 19 at about 12:45 p.m. to the negotiating team headed by the Agusan del Sur Vice Governor Santiago Cane and Provincial DSWD officials.

            The negotiating team who negotiated for the release is composed of Crisis Management Committee members composing of LGU officials, government agencies representatives, NGO and leaders of religious sector.

Caraga Conference for Peace and Development (CCPD) official Fr. Lito Clase who is member of the negotiating team admitted that the New People’s Army rebels at first demanded three baby armalites and one M-203. 

 “But we never heed to their demands instead we give them 300 pieces of sweatshirts, some foods and others as love offerings as token because this is part of Filipino culture thanking for the safe release of P03 Sabatin”, Fr. Clase said during press conference held at PNP regional office conference.

The Roman Catholic priest is spiritual adviser of former Agusan del Sur Governor Valentina Plaza and head of Roman Catholic-led Caraga Conference for Peace and Development (CCPD) Apostolate of the Indigenous People.

The news conference was attended by top police, LGU, government agencies and negotiating team officials.

Sabatin for his part admitted he surrendered to the NPA rebels after he was being told to do so.

“I was alone and wounded at the time of the attack and when the NPA rebels shouted to me to surrender helpless I raised my hands and surrendered” PO3 Sabatin admitted during press conference.

Caraga Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Reynaldo S. Rafal for his part said 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.  

But during news conference Sabatin denied having first-hand knowledge in any of the checkpoint activities saying they are only there to provide security.

  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. (PNA/Ben Serrano)

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