Escaped hostage-taker Joebert “Ondo” Perez and three policemen were injured in a grenade explosion as his gang battled it out with authorities near the public market of San Francisco, Agusan del Sur, early Friday, a police official said.

Perez, charged for taking 70 hostages in Prosperidad two years ago, is presently confined at the Democrito Plaza Memorial Hospital, Agusan del Sur provincial police director Senior Supt. Glenn de la Torre said.

Two of the three injured policemen have been declared outpatient by doctors while the other was recommended for transfer to a hospital in Butuan City for further treatment, he said.

De la Torre did not name the injured lawmen, but said they were all “new graduates” and non-commissioned officers.

The explosion occurred around 2 a.m. while police were conducting operations against members of an “organized crime group” near the San Francisco Public Market, he said.

“Pinapaputukan tapos pinasabugan sila (policemen) ng granada, doon na-injure ‘yung tatlong pulis natin,” De la Torre said, adding that the area is just less than a kilometer away from the town’s police station.

Aside from Perez, at least five other members of the group were arrested, De la Torre said.

Just recently, Perez was identified as among five armed men who held up a Bachelor Express bus (LYC-813) in Prosperidad on Oct. 28.

Perez first gained notoriety after he and his armed tribal group abducted more than 70 people, including 17 schoolchildren, and held them hostage in the mountainous area of Sitio Maitum, Brgy. San Martin, Prosperidad, on Dec. 10, 2009.

The hostages were eventually released in batches until all were freed on Dec. 13.

Perez was later charged for kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and robbery, and was detained at the Surigao del Sur District Jail in Tandag City, but escaped on April 22, this year.

Last July 3, the local government of Prosperidad and Caraga regional police released a P100,000 reward for any information that will lead to Perez’s arrest. (John Roson)

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