Masbate hostage drama ends peacefully, 12 victims free unharmed

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

By Edison Aganan

MASBATE CITY (29-April-2013) -A mentally deranged man carrying a .45-caliber pistol forcibly entered the residence of Juan Belarmino in Barangay Aliño, Dimasalang, Masbate, and took 12 persons hostage inside the house at about 2:20 p.m., Saturday.

Inspector Carlos G. Etonilo, Dimasalang Municipal Police Office chief, said suspect Angelito A. Alpabete alias “Bulilit,” 34, surrendered to Insp. Chester Pomar, police negotiator, at about 8:10 pm., the same day, after releasing the last seven of the hostages, peacefully ending the six-hour suspenseful drama.

Taken as hostages were Amalia, 45, Aiza, 22, April Joy, 12, Angel Jane, 8, and John Joseph, 6—all surnamed Belarmino; Gina, 42, Genelyn, 8, and Geralyn, 4—all surnamed Arayesa; Sonia Azares, 42; Zey John Valencia, 1; Vanessa Jane Lim, 1; and, Remedios Roluna, 72.

Elements of DMPO led by Estonilo immediately responded and secured the area, which, Estonilo said, “is large enough to allow freedom of movement of the tactical and negotiating teams, and small enough to be kept under observation and control by the authorities.”

His office and the local government unit immediately activated the Municipal Crisis Management Committee with Supt. Rogelio Beraquit, 3rd District supervisor, as on-scene commander, Estonilo as ground commander and Pomar as negotiator.

They started to convince Alpabete to release the hostages and give himself up.

Serving as backup were Senior Insp. Ricardo Cargullo, assistant 3rd District supervisor, and additional forces from the Masbate Provincial Public Safety Company.

As the hostage-taking standoff went intense, Estonilo learned that Alpabete was so desperate to have his family, currently in Sibuyan Island, be brought back in Masbate.

He said Alpabete had earlier claimed that the hostage-taking was all about politics.

“The hostage crisis is merely a combination of elements of suicidal despair and homicidal rage, aggravated and fueled by illegal drugs,” Estonilo noted.

Alpabete released one of the victims, Remedios Roluna, at about 5:15 p.m. and another four victims at about 7:45 p.m.

The remaining seven were released at about 8:10 p.m. while the hostage-taker eventually surrendered.

“The end is what we always look forward to. We wrapped up going home with nobody hurt, nobody killed or committed suicide,” Estonilo told his men.

Supt. Jeffrey S. Fernandez, deputy provincial director for administration, said hostage-taking cases in the province are rare and he was glad they were able to handle the situation carefully.

“It`s a team effort by everyone. The district officers that responded did a phenomenal job,” Fernandez added.

The freed hostages were taken to the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office for debriefing and counseling.

Police confiscated from Alpabete one.45-caliber pistol marked Infinity with serial number 152626, which they brought to the DMPO for proper disposition and filing of appropriate charges against the hostage-taker.(PNA)

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