MUNAI, Lanao del Norte – One of the kidnap for ransom gang leaders in Lanao del Norte was nabbed by the police and military in their operations to rescue the kidnap victims in the interior town of Munai on Sunday dawn.

Lt. Col. Ferdinand Barandon, commanding officer of the 15th Infantry Battalion of the army based in Bagumbayan in Kauswagan town in Lanao del Nort, identified the kidnap suspect as Nabel Balabagan also known as Alex. The police served the pending warrant of arrest for Balabagan. He has been a suspect of arson, which is not bailable.

Barandon said the military sent its troops and armored vehicles in the hinterland town of Munai to track down another kidnap victim Rogelio Narciso, the village chief of Palao in Kolambugan town also in Lanao del Norte, who was abducted on his way home from Palao barangay hall on May 28.

While the military was on its way to old Poblacion, Munai, Balabagan was sighted in Barangay Dalama. Thus, the military coordinated with Munai PNP to produce and serve Balabagan’s pending warrant of arrest.

Police Senior Inspector Daud Sanggoyon, police chief of Munai PNP, made several attempts to convince Balabagan to give up to authorities, but failed to negotiate Balabagan’s surrender.

At around 1:00 a.m. on June 1, former Munai Mayor Cassan Maquiling who was sought by the relatives to intervene in the ongoing negotiations arrived in Dalama heavily guarded.

Maquiling said Balabagan was armed with .45 caliber pistol when he entered the house where Balabagan was cornered with some women and relatives. One of Maquiling’s security escorts disarmed Balabagan.

Maquiling said Balabagan pleaded to surrender one of the kidnap victims in exchange of his freedom. Maquiling bluffed by agreeing to Balabagan’s plea.

A police who is a relative of Balabagan was sent to the safe house and brought with him John Kevin Montajes, 21, the van driver who was abducted on May 16 while en route to Iligan City.

Balabagan and Montajes were brought to the municipal hall of Munai. The police didn’t handcuff Balabagan who later tried to escape, but failed.

Sanggoyon and the army fired shots to stop Balabagan’s attempt to escape.

Balabagan and Montajes were also brought to Col. Demmy Tejares, commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanize Infantry Brigade based in Bagumbayan in Kauswagan town.

Later, Montajes was brought to a hospital in Iligan City for physical check up as he was frail. He was reunited to his parents there.

Balabagan was turned over to police station 4 of Linamon town in Lanao del Norte.

Tejares vowed to continue helping the police to neutralize the lawless groups involved in the series of kidnapping, extortion and murder in the province.

The military is also coordinating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is helping the troops to rescue Narciso who is reportedly hypertensive.

The relatives are worried of Narciso’s healt condition considering that it has been raining in the province lately rendering the areas very cold.

Montajes who was held captive for more than 10 days only bathed twice because the water was too cold. He only ate vegetables and dried fish during his captivity. An elderly woman cooked for him and the armed group who secured Montajes.