Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) freed five persons, including a former vice-mayor, after “arresting” them in Baloi, Lanao del Norte, the military said Saturday.

Former Baloi Vice Mayor Abdullah Balas, Brgy. Cadayunan chairman Mohammad Amer Arumpac, former Brgy. East Poblacion chairman Salonga Pacuti, and two other civilians were freed 5:30 p.m. Friday, Army 1st Infantry Division spokesman Capt. Jefferson Somera said.

Members of the MILF seized the five past 6 p.m. Thursday during a “saturation drive” in Brgy. Poblacion East, he said.

Fully-armed MILF members led by Commander Abdul Jalal Macalunto of the North Western Mindanao Front forcibly took the five and brought them to their camp in Lanao del Sur, Somera said.

“‘Yung MILF kasi, nagko-conduct ng saturation drive, tinawag nila na anti-drugs saka anti-gambling saturation, ‘yun ang sabi nila,” he said.

Somera, however, said the military believes that the incident was a case of “kidnapping” as the victims’ families were reported to have paid money for their release.

“Nalaman namin na bago na-release, nag-ransom ng P15,000 each, so we believe na simple kidnapping ‘yun,” he said.

Somera said the military is leaving it to the police to determine if the incident will be considered as a kidnapping case. (John Roson)

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