MANILA, Philippines — The military in Zamboanga Peninsula region has dispatched teams in a town in Zamboanga del Sur to search for a missing army officer.
Major Ramon Torres, the intelligence officer of the 102nd Army Brigade based in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, was traveling along with five other soldiers, when their Mitzubishi Strada pick-up was flagged down by suspected New People’s Army rebels in Barangay Guinoman, Diplahan town. This happened at around 7:30 am Saturday.
Torres and his men were on their way to conduct an “intelligence mission” in Bayog town in Zamboanga del Sur. The vehicle, according to a military report, was owned by a private mining company.
Another military report leaked to the media disclosed Torres’s companions only by their last names: 2nd Lt. Pulay, an intelligence officer of the 53rd Infantry Battalion; Sgt Salvacion of the 102nd Brigade, Sgt. Gonzaga, retired Master Sargeant Bernal (driver) and a still unidentified member of a civilian auxiliary unit.
Except for Torres, the other soldiers were eventually freed after the rebels interrogated them and seized their firearms, according to the AFP’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom). Among the firearms taken by the rebels were three M-1 rifles, one M-14 rifle, five caliber 45 pistols, and one 9mm pistol.
The rebels also burned the civilian vehicle before freeing the soldiers.
Search and Manhunt Operations
Quoting a report from the freed soldiers, WestMinCom spokesman Lt Col Randy Cabangbang told Move.PH that the rebels were wearing military camouflage uniforms and that “some were wearing jackets with the word ‘media’ printed on them.”
According to Cabangbang, Torres managed to flee from the rebels, believed to belong to the NPA’s Main Regional Guerilla Unit (MRGU). He remains missing.
“We are still checking if the soldiers fell prey to a random checkpoint set up by the rebels in the area, or their mission could have been a burnout,” Cabangbang said.
Troops from Torres’s unit have been deployed to Bayog to conduct “search and manhunt” operations for the missing officer.