MISAMIS ORIENTAL –- Police clamped a security blanket at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental province Monday morning after a man commandeered a passenger van and hurdled the airport’s tightly guarded main gate.

Police identified the suspect as Victor Samban of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. The suspect commandeered one of the passenger vans in the compound at the Laguindingan airport and speed fast the tightly guarded airport’s gate.

Police sounded a province-wide alarm prompting all municipal police stations in the province’s west coast to blockade the getaway vehicle as the airport police gave chase.

The suspect rammed another passenger van that tried to block along the Laguindingan highway and commandeered a taxi cab, then fled towards Iligan City.

The police patrol fired the tires of the taxicab until the suspect was cornered in the coastal town of Libertad, an hour later.

During the initial investigation, Samban said that he has been at the Laguindingan airport since Sunday for a flight to Manila on Monday.

He said that he worked as a company driver in Manila, but was on vacation since Dec. 23 in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

The suspect alleged that some unidentified persons, he described as “death squad,” were out to kill him, prompting him to commandeer a car to escape from the alleged “death squad.”

Junal Andaya, the driver of the passenger van, said that the engine of his vehicle was turned on while preparing to pick up newly arrived passengers following the arrival of a passenger plane.

He said Samban took the wheel and closed the doors, then speed away.

Police guarding the airport’s main gate said they could not fire on the vehicle for fear that passengers might be inside.

“The passenger van has tinted glasses, so we could not ascertain if there are passengers inside,” a police officer manning the airport’s gate said.

Police Inspector Ulysses Teves of the Laguindingan police said the suspect is now detained at the Laguindingan police station pending filing of appropriate charges.

The operation at the airport was back to normal, but the security has been tightened as the police conduct “double checking” of all vehicles coming in and out of the airport’s compound. PNA/