Captive soldiers homecoming

Mar. 05, 2009


Davao Today

DAVAO CITY–A day after 1Lt. Vicente P. Cammayo was released by the Communist New Peoples Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said the former NPA captive bore wounds, an ear injury, handcuff markings, rope cuts on his feet and a few bruises all throughout his body.


1Lt. Vicente P. Cammayo during his release. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

AFP spokesperson for public affairs Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Jr. said these were the findings of the physical examination of Cammayo shortly after the soldiers release. It debunked the NPA claim that they treated their former prisoner of war humanely.

Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Merardo Arce Command in Southern Mindanao, said he already expected the military to twist the story of Cammayos captivity.

The NPA turned over Cammayo at around 11 a.m. on January 6 to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Loreto town of Agusan del Sur. Clad in white shirt, gray jogging pants, black slippers and with knapsack on his back, Cammayo said he was treated well during his captivity. I was treated humanely, said Cammayo, who has grown a beard longer than the one he had on the last footage that the NPA released during his almost two-month captivity. I will not elaborate but the thing is, Im alive, he told the media shortly after his January 6 release in barangay Kauswagan, near the boundary areas of Laak, Compostela Valley and Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

He refuted his superiors that he was wounded and weak when the video, showing him in the NPAs hands, was released. Maybe it was my colleague they saw, he said.

NPA reports said Cammayo, 29, surrendered to the NPA Alejandro Lanaja Command after a November 7 ambush last year in Barangay Casoon, Monkayo in Compostela Valley province. But Cammayo said he was captured.

Sanchez said the military only wanted to save face after the military rescue operations failed. He also said that Cammayo will have a lot of explaining to do why an elite AFP Special Forces unit that he headed was defeated by the NPA.

Three of his men were instantly killed in the ambush, others were wounded, Sanchez said. An M60 machine gun and other high-powered rifles were seized from Cammayo’s team. As a field officer of an elite AFP special forces, he failed to lead his troops in an organized retreat, said Sanchez. Instead, he surrendered, unhurt.

Cammayos captivity and eventual release was timed during the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines 40th year.

NPA custodial forces escorted him before he was turned over to the ICRC representatives and the Interfaith Movement for the Release of Tumol and Cammayo (Impact) during the release.

The ICRC then brought him to the Davao del Norte town of Sto. Tomas, where Davao city mayor Rodrigo Duterte and vice mayor Sara Duterte fetched Cammayo and brought him in a helicopter for the formal turn over to the Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters in Camp Panacan, Davao City.

Cammayos colleagues placed him in a wheelchair upon arriving at the headquarters.

A scripted drama, Sanchez said.

The release was postponed twice because of relentless military operations.

Sanchez said that the military committed several human rights violations in the towns of Kapalong, Loreto, Laak and other areas when it tried to rescue Cammayo.

Brawner, however, said the release was not an act of goodwill by the NPA, but rather, the result of the pressure exerted upon the rebel group by groups working for Cammayos release.

Cammayo said he was scared for his safety during his captivity because of non-stop military operations, a part of the effort to rescue him.

He said that he almost lost hope during his captivity. He thanked God, the church groups and the local government of Davao who arranged for his release.

Cammayo said his loyalty remains with the government. He was happy to be reunited with his wife, who would soon give birth to their first born.

As Lt. Cammayo goes home, he will be welcomed as a local hero, Sanchez said. He was freed on humanitarian grounds and out of goodwill by the Communist Party on its 40th year. Other AFP soldiers deployed in the NPA areas in Southern Mindanao were not as lucky to come home alive, he said.

Bishop Delfin Callao, one of the Impact convenors, appealed to the government to resume the stalled peace talks with the NDF to prevent further bloodshed. (Grace S. Uddin/

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