BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental: The military here said it cannot confirm that armed men reportedly sighted in Cauayan town, Negros Occidental, on Friday night are members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
According to 1st Lt. John Tumamao, commander of the Philippine Army 79th Infantry Battalion’s Bravo company, some residents claimed to have seen armed men passing by a river in Sitio Capaclan, while others said they were not sure whether the men they saw were carrying firearms or just backpacks.
Tumamao said his menhave been hearing different stories from the locals.
Some residents reportedly heard gunshots in Barangay Inayawan that “may have come from New People’s Army rebels,” he added, referring to the communist guerrillas.
What concerned many residents most was the white pump boat found near the shore in Inayawan.
On board the boat were an American, Frank Blaskis, 74, and his 12-year-old daughter.
Blaskis allowed the Coast Guard to check his boat and cargo.
But suspicion that armed men boarded his boat or that they were on two other boats believed to have arrived at the same time as he did angered the American.
He explained that he and his daughter were from Bacong in Negros Oriental and that they were traveling to Iloilo but were forced to seek shelter in Cauayan because of huge waves.
Blaskis denied hearing gunshots and seeing armed men upon arriving in the area.
Barangay (village) chief Sanderson Sumugot Jr. said village officials could not establish a link between Blaskis and the two other boats reportedly used by the armed men.
Blaskis said they only carried one bag with them and that their boat cannot carry 10 persons.
“I want to know who spread the rumors,” he told a local radio station.
Coast Guard personnel who inspected the pump boat did not see anything suspicious.
Blaskis and his daughter later returned to Negros Oriental.
Chief Insp. Ruben Pajarito, Cauayan municipal police chief, assured residents that “what happened in Bohol last week will not happen” in his watch.
On Friday, many residents in the area were not able to sleep after reports that members of the Abu Sayyaf who clashed with government forces in Bohol may have reached their place.
Government forces continued to patrol Cauayan and the neighboring areas while intelligence reports are being validated.
Authorities advised residents to remain calm and to cooperate and coordinate with local police and the military.