Gunmen in military uniform abduct 3 in Zamboanga
(The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2014 - 2:06pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Gunmen clad in military uniforms barged into a merchandise store on Monday night and forcibly abducted three people, including a business couple, in a remote coastal village west of Zamboanga City, authorities said. 

Authorities said that one of the victims was released while another escaped after he fought back against the captors in Barangay Labuan. 

The victims were identified as Joel Panes, 34, and his wife Michelle, 36, general merchandise store operators, and Asbi Abirin in Barangay Labuan, City Police director Sr. Supt.  Angelito Casimiro said. 

Abirin was released while Joel escaped after he fought back while trying to free his wife. 

Barangay Chair Ronald Maravilla told police that suspects in military uniforms with bonnets and scarves covering their faces barged into the general merchandise store of the Panes couple at about 7:45 p.m. at Purok 5 just a few meters away from the shore and pretended to be raiding for prohibited drugs.

Panes immediately alerted his wife Michelle to run away and escape outside as three of the suspects ransacked the store with food stuff and the day’s earning worth P50,000 pesos. 

The police and local leaders said the gunmen, while escaping, grabbed the bag of another woman containing cash worth P100,000 along they way towards getaway jungkong pumpboat in the shorelines.

Witnesses disclosed that Michelle was taken by other lookout suspects securing the store and brought her to the waiting jungkong pumpboat. 

The suspects later dragged Joel Panes including Abirin, also a small time trader who was incidentally present in the store.

Abirin said the suspects took turns in beating Panes while they were being herded toward the pumpboat where Michelle was already held by the group.

“The gunmen were pointing their guns at me and I pleaded to the group to spare me,” Abirin said.

He said the abductors hurled Panes into the jungkong pumpboat with his wife already on board. 

Abirin told newsmen that Panes seized the moment to rock and tried to overturn the pumpboat to delay the suspects and for him to escape with his wife.

Panes jumped overboard but his wife failed to follow as the abductors fired at him while he swam away. The police said the husband managed to escape after he fought back to delay the kidnappers from escaping.

Responding police forces engaged the suspects briefly but were cautioned because of Michelle's presence in the boat.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the Task Force Zamboanga, said the Naval Forces Western Mindanao launched a pursuit operation. He said the Navy was unable to report sightings of the suspects who were believed to have escaped toward the Sangbay Island near Pilas group of island off Basilan. 

Passengers in an inbound motorboat that arrived in Barangay Labuan later claimed they saw a pumpboat speeding toward the coastal area of Zamboanga del Norte.

Authorities suspected that the abductors came from the same group responsible in the previous kidnapping incidents in the area.

Police and military forces have been alerted in the nearby towns in Zamboanga del Norte to monitor the presence of the suspects and their captive. - Roel Pareño

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