ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – More than 10 armed men abducted at dawn Monday, May 4, the chairman of Aliguay, one of Dapitan’s two island barangays, and two members of the Philippine Coast Guard.
The suspects turned to these 3 men after failing to see foreign tourists in what could have been a plan for kidnapping-for-ransom.
Police officials here are mum on the incident, and have identifid only Barangay Chairman Rodolfo Buligao among the victims.
In Manila, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the abduction, but refused to reveal the identities of the two personnel. It only described them as members of Coast Guardsman Course Class 18 and 26, and they are First and Second Class Seaman assigned in PCG's station in Dapitan.
Commander Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, said the agency had alerted the monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) 3006 to pursue the kidnappers and step up security surveillance in the area.
The MCS 3006 is a vessel owned by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) but manned by the PCG.
It would be scouring the towns of Liloy, Sindangan, and Siocon – all in Zamboanga del Norte – as the PCG suspects that the suspects possibly brought the victims in those coastal towns.
The PCG has also notified the military and Philippine National Police in the region regarding the abduction.
Sources from the Dapitan City Police said they believe the target of the armed group was some rich Chinese businessmen in nearby Dipolog City, but the group was intercepted by the Special Forces of the Army’s 101 Brigade.
An intelligence report came out on Sunday, May 3, that two pumpboats with undetermined number of unidentified armed men were approaching Dipolog. The Army Special Forces on two speedboats conducted patrol and spotted the two pumpboats by early evening.
When the Special Forces tried to get near, the two pumpboats sped toward the northeast, passing by Aliguay Island and headed toward Apo Island near Dumaguete City.
The Special Forces did not follow the pumpboats to Apo Island, and headed back to Dipolog. However, by 2 am, the two pumpboats returned and this time landed in Aliguay.
According to Sanita Buligao, wife of the kidnapped barangay chairman, the armed men were wearing military uniforms and were asking for foreign tourists. Having found none, they ordered a resident to take them to the house of Rodolfo Buligao.
“They identified themselves as policemen and were looking for shabu,” Sanita Buligao said through cellphone. “They were speaking in Tagalog, but when they went back to their pumpboats, they were speaking some other dialect.”
Sanita Buligao also said she is afraid for the life of her husband. “It was only my husband who was handcuffed, the two coast guard [members] were not.”