Gunmen holding dozens of people in a Philippine jungle have agreed to surrender after the state said it would consider at least some of their demands, the government said today. Hostage negotiators plan to bring the kidnappers down from their mountain hideout tomorrow morning, when the group also plan to hand over their captives, said the crisis team's spokesman, Alfredo Plaza. "The group of (Ondo) Perez will surrender. We will fetch them at 7:00am tomorrow," Mr Plaza told reporters after a series of meetings between government, military, and police officials.
The government reviewed the kidnappers' demands earlier today in a bid to bring a peaceful resolution to the siege, now in its third day. The gunmen, former guerrillas and members of the mountain-dwelling Manobo tribe, raided a school in a small farming village in the Agusan valley region of the southern island of Mindanao on Thursday and took 75 hostages. Twenty-eight, including 18 children, were later freed.
About 400 soldiers and police were deployed amid concern that the kidnappers would harm the hostages. The negotiations centre around an inter-tribal conflict between two rival leaders, Mr Plaza said. As part of the deal, the government held talks with a Manobo tribal leader.
Perez, the kidnap gang's leader, has demanded that criminal charges against him be dropped, that Icuag's bodyguards be disarmed and that Joel Tubay, the leader of the kidnappers' rivals, be arrested. It was unclear if the latter two demands would be granted. Both Perez and Tubay have outstanding arrest warrants for murder over killings which have their roots in a long-standing dispute over property, Mr Plaza said.
The president, Gloria Arroyo, lifted martial law over Maguindanao province today, ending eight days of emergency rule triggered by the massacre last month of 57 people, allegedly by the heads of a Muslim clan that had ruled the area since 2001. *AFP