A 37-YEAR-OLD church worker, who was supposed to clarify his kin’s alleged drug involvement on Wednesday, August 23, engaged in a brief shootout with the police in Naawan, Misamis Oriental in a situation authorities described as a hostage crisis.
The suspect, Loverton Ruedas, was said to be armed with a caliber 45 pistol when he went to the police station to discuss his cousin’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs activity.
But Senior Inspector Corinne Mae Estigoy, spokesperson of the provincial police office, said the suspect refused to surrender his gun and drew it instead which resulted to a brief firefight.
Estigot said no one was hurt in the firefight.
Ruedas ran towards San Isidro Labrador Parish Church to seek help from parish priest, Reverend Ronedon Valmoria.
The police, however, considered it as a hostage taking.
Estigoy said the suspect, who claimed to be an Army soldier, was not hostile but prevented the priest from going out of the church.
"Iyang gi-claim nga Army siya pero for verification pa. Dili man siya hostile pero dili man gud niya pagawason si Father ug nag-demand siya nga didto lang sa tawo nga iyang gusto siya mo-surrender (He claimed he is an Army soldier. He was not hostile but he wouldn’t let the priest out and demanded to surrender to the person he likes)," Estigoy said.
Fr. Valmoria, however, belied he was taken hostage by the suspect.
Valmoria said the suspect ran to him to seek refuge and help after he was chased by the policemen.
Valmoria added he was not even harmed by the suspect who later turned over his gun to the priest.
"Walay hostage nahitabo. Wala ko niya pasakiti. Nagpatabang lang siya sa ako. Buotan ug wala man siyay problema (There was no hostage. He didn’t harm me. He just asked me for help. He’s kind)," Valmoria said.
The parish priest said they talked and prayed while the police are planning the negotiation outside.
Valmoria demanded that Ruedas would only surrender to a certain Senior Inspector Dexter Ceniza, who has been currently assigned in Iligan City Police Office.
"Murag related sa drugs kay iyang ig-agaw gipangita sa police. Iyang nakita nga looy iyang paryente busa niadto siya sa police para makig-istorya sa hepe (It might be related to drugs since the police was looking for his cousin. He saw how pitiful his cousin was so he went to the police to talk to the chief)," Valmoria added.
Authorities activated a crisis management committee upon the arrival of Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Emano and Provincial Police Director Senior Superintendent Rolando Destura.
Emano said the provincial police chief assured to fairly handle the case.
"Gipasaligan ta ni Colonel Destura nga dili mahilabtan ug dili makuhitan ang suspek ug maningkamot sila nga masulbad kini nga problema (Colonel Destura promised us that the suspect will not be touched and they will do their best to solve the problem),” Emano said.
The suspect surrendered immediately when Ceniza, a family friend, arrived.
"Wala gyud koy facts sa hitabo. Nianhi ko para makatabang sa sitwasyon. Nag-istorya mi og (I don’t have facts on what happened. I just came here to help in the situation. We talked about) personal matters and I'll leave it to the investigators because it’s confidential," Ceniza said.
Police said should Valmoria decide not to file serious illegal detention charges against the suspect, the police will still charge the latter with illegal possession of firearm.