(Update) New People’s Army (NPA) members released three officials of a mining company in Rosario, Agusan del Sur, Saturday evening, after police and military troops agreed to suspend operations against the rebels.

Christopher Ocite, Gani Altaya, and Joel Jayuma, operations manager, assistant operations manager, and security officer of VPO Mining, respectively, were freed around 7:45 p.m., Supt. Martin Gamba, Caraga regional police spokesman, said.

Josefina Bajade, the designated chief negotiator, fetched the three at an undisclosed area in Rosario and brought them to the home of Ocite’s father Vivencio who also owns VPO Mining, Gamba said.

Before the release, military and police forces in the province stopped combat-pursuit operations against the rebels as requested by Rosario’s crisis management committee.

The committee made the request in a resolution addressed to the Agusan del Sur provincial police director and unit commanders of the Armed Forces, Gamba said.

Operations were stopped 2 p.m. and will remain suspended for 24 hours, 2Lt. Hazel Tabago, commander of the Army’s civil-military operations unit in the area, said.

“Hindi naman sa pinapabyaan sila (rebels), pero ang primary concern was the safe release of the hostages,” Tabago said in a mobile phone message.

“As to the next step, the military, especially the 401st Infantry Brigade under Col. Romeo Gan, thru the 75th Infantry Battalion and in coordination with the local police and government unit, will have to take some legal actions to make those criminals answer for the crime they have just committed,” she said.

Ocite, Altaya, and Jayuma were abducted and used as “human shields” when the rebels escaped after raiding the VPO Mining compound on Thursday, Tabago said. (John Roson)

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