FOUR of the six individuals abducted by unidentified armed men in Lanao de Norte province Saturday night, June 4, were rescued by law enforcers Monday night.
The police said on Tuesday that most of those kidnapped in Linamon town are either students or alumni of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) based in Iligan City, Lanao de Norte.
Senior Superintendent Edgar Daniel, Iligan City police director, said the students were on board a vehicle en route to Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur when flagged down by the gunmen.
In a press release issued by the MSU-IIT, the abducted persons were identified as Juhary Gubat, a freshman General Education student; alumni Kevin Limpin and Hannah Yurong; Berzon Rey Paeste, a senior AB History student, from Pagadian City; Cid Rick Jamias, 5th year BS Electronics and Communication from Tacurong City; and Eloisa Lacson, a non-MSU-IIT student.
Rescued were Gubat, Limpin, Yurong, and Lacson, police said.
The University said the students were hanging out at a gasoline station in Barangay Tibanga, Iligan City and were last seen on board a white van, allegedly driven by Gubat's cousin, with plate number KGJ-661.
A composite team composed of police from Iligan, Lanao del Norte, government soldiers and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents conducted the rescue.
Authorities, however, did not divulge the details of the operation leading to the rescue of the abductees.
Daniel said the group was supposed to bring Paeste and other companions to their homes but was taken by armed men instead.
He said the victims were blindfolded and taken to a secluded area where they were asked about their parents’ jobs.
Daniel said NBI operatives had tracked down the location of the abductees through their cellphone signals.
He added the signal was traced to Bacolod town, Lanao del Norte. It was also believed the victims were brought to Munai town, also in Lanao del Norte.
As of June 7, all the released persons are in hiding fearing for their lives.
Paeste and Jamias are still being held captive by the armed men.
Police Superintendent Surki Sereñas, Police Regional Office-Northern Mindanao spokesperson, said investigation on the case is still ongoing especially that two have remained captives.
"Accordingly, gikan daw sila sa Lanao del Norte area. Pero so far, wala pa ta kabalo unsay motibo ngano nga gi-kidnap allegedly ni sila. We are still investigating kung kidnapping ba gyud ang nahitabo ug unsa ka tinuod nga ang nabilin is for ransom na," Sereñas said.
He said the Iligan City Police are still waiting for the report of the victims' parents or relatives about the incident.
A close friend of missing Paeste who requested not to be named, said in an interview they were alarmed when Paeste failed to return their calls since Saturday night.
"I tried contacting him but he couldn’t be reached," he said.
The source said Paeste is friends with Jamias and Gubat.
Asked if Paeste is involved in any organization, the source said Paeste plays drums in a local band which doesn’t have any out-of-town gig for quite a while now.
Kabataan Partylist coordinator Vennel Chenfoo said the organization will monitor the case.
"Alarming nga naay ingani na mga butang gakahitabo nga mga cases nga dakong problem gyud sa mga kabatan-onan karon. Hinuon, amo gyud pirmi ginasulong nga ang kabatan-onan makigduyog sa nation-building pero usahay kini nga role kinahanglan pa mapasabot sa ila," he said.
Also a student of MSU-IIT, Chenfoo reminded students to be on guard on their safety and remain vigilant always.
MSU-IIT Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol assured that the school is working closely with the authorities to assure the safety of the students.
In Iligan City, Nida Yurong, Hanna’s mother, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that her daughter narrated they were on their way to Maranding, Lala, Lanao del Norte.
But, they were flagged down by armed men and transferred to another vehicle.
“They were blindfolded and their mouths were plastered with duct tape. They were provided with ‘malong,’ food and later walked for about two hours to a place they don’t know where though they passed by at Panggao Elementary School which is in Munai town,” said Nida adding “palangga daw sila didto sa bukid.”
Nida said Hanna and the three others arrived in Yurong’s house at around 12:30 a.m. on June 7. “They were in trauma,” Nida said.
She further said Hanna and her friends were dropped at Linamon town and were given money for fare back to Iligan city.
Nida said they won’t file a complaint adding “what’s more important is that Hanna is home now.”