The abduction of the six Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) inspectors last May 30 was perpetuated by the New People’s Army (NPA) fighters based in Compostela Valley, the Eastern Mindanao Command said on Monday.
Capt. Alberto Caber, EastMinCom spokesperson, said in a text message to the Philippines News Agency they were able to confirm this as Daniel Ibarra, the rebels’ spokesperson in the area, informed the local government unit (LGU) of Maco, Compostela Valley and media entities, through e-mails, that their group was behind the abduction.
According to Caber, the military is focusing on the safe release of the six DENR inspectors identified as Kendrik Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Cua, Jonas Loredo and Tim Sabina.
“This is our goal and as a result we’re doing calculated operations to ensure this,” he said.
The Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson added that the Maco local government has started negotiations for the safe release of the victims.
Caber earlier said that they were looking into reports that the six DENR inspectors could have been victims of mistaken identity.
He explained this was possible as the victims were operating a drone to aid them in their validation work in Barangay New Leyte, Maco town, Compostela Valley when they were snatched by unidentified gunmen at around 2 p.m. Friday.
The validation work is done in aid of the government’sNational Greening Program in the area.
“It’s likely that the DENR inspectors were thought to be military personnel as they were operating a drone at the time of their abduction. In fact, the motorcycle-riding suspects told witnesses not to worry, as they will only determine the exact identities of the six,” Caber said.
The Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson said the suspects immediately took the victims’ cellphones and the remote control for the drone.
He added that a platoon from their 1001st Infantry Brigade is now busy conducting pursuit and tracking operations. PNA