Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Families of the New People’s Army (NPA)’s five captives sought for the latter’s release, as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Southern Mindanao gave the release order Thursday.

Rubi Del Mundo, who signed NDF’s statement that was sent via email to the media, however, said the release could only be accomplished if the military withdraws its troops in the 12 villages of Loreto and Laak towns, in Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley provinces, respectively.

Set for release were Barangay Captain Lito Andalique and Barangay Kagawads Marvin Bantuasan, Crisanto Piodos, and Balaba Andalique, and Cafgu tribal member Pepe Subla.

NDF is seeking suspension of military operations in the the villages of Binucayan, Balite, Pangkat, Johnson, Sta. Theresa, San Mariano, Kauswagan, Sabud, Kasapa 1, Kasapa 2, and Valentina, all in Loreto, and in Brgy. Datu Dabaw in Laak, Compostela Valley.

Del Mundo added that should this be followed, they see “no other impediments” barring freedom of the four barangay functionaries of Barangay Sabud, Loreto, Agusan del Sur and a Cafgu member who were their “prisoners of war” since October 24.

The NDF said they have “already apologized for their counter-revolutionary and anti-people activities.”

The NPA’s Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub Regional Command, who “arrested” the five, earlier said that though the four POWs were elected government leaders, they are also active members of the paramilitary CAFGU (Citizen’s Armed Force Geographical Unit) and thus are “legitimate targets for arrest” by the NPA.

Librando Perez, a datu (tribal chieftain) in Sabud, with four other cousins of the five POWs pleaded in a press conference Friday in this city, that the NPA’s POWs be spared as the latter were only “forced” to be “conscripted as Cafgus.”

“They were only forced to be Cafgus by the Mayor (Loreto Mayor Dario Otasa). They cannot say no. They were forced to do it because of the interest of the Mayor in plantation and in mining. Please spare them and return them to us,” said Perez.

Perez revealed that it was also the Mayor who pushed for the installation of an Army detachment in their village.

“Ang pagtukod sa detachment gihimo bisan mosugot mi o sa dili, unya karon mao na ang hinungdan ngano gubot among dapit. Kung di ka moanha aron motabang tukod sa detachment, ipatawag dayon ka nila (Cafgus) (The putting-up of the detachment was made, whether we gave consent or not. It is now the cause of the chaos in our village. If you don’t show to up to help in building it, you would be summoned by the Cafgus),” he said.

He said that Otasa wants the barangay officials to be among the first to become Cafgus in the barangay.

“Wala gani mi kasabot nganong gipugos sila mag Cafgu nga mga opisyal man na sila (We don’t know why they were forced to become Cafgus when they are supposedly barangay officials),” he said.

Ka Aris Francisco, the Spokesperson of the NPA unit said in an earlier statement that the POWs “are psychological warfare agents, who banned the masses from going to their farms and forcing them to remain at the village centers, in a blatant attempt to control their movement” and that “these POWs have campaigned hard against the NPAs, harassed peasant leaders, and strongly endorsed the entry of palm oil and mining projects-—projects that will eventually dislocate the masses and deprive Lumads of their ancestral domain.”

Perez said that Otasa was circulating a message that “he doesn’t care what happens to them (POWs).”

“Bahalag patyon na ninyo, akong ipadayon ang operisyon sa military, ana iyang sulti sa mga tawo didto sa amo (‘I don’t care if you kill them, I will continue with the military,’ that’s what he has been telling the people in our village),” Perez said.

The NDF also scored the “combat operations camouflaged as rescue activities” of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, as NDF’s Del Mundo claims, it “only resulted in more atrocities against the masses.”

“…on top of the military’s killing of two peasant leaders, dropping of 24 bombs and dislocating the masses, and torturing and detaining two minor Lumads to whom they accused of killing brgy. Capt. Ramon Diogonan. In the last few weeks, this same military unit has ransacked the peasant’s homes, destroyed their properties, and looted their farm animals,” said Del Mundo.

Del Mundo claimed their operations in the said area have resulted in 40 casualties on the AFP side, and only 1 on the NPA camp.

Meanwhile, Bishop Modesto Villasanta of Sowing the Seeds of Peacce, a third-party negotiator and peace process advocates organization of church workers, said he hopes that the NDF will again show “good will” and release their POWs safely.

“If the NDF wants to participate in the release of their POWs, we would be happy to respond as this would be a positive step in the peace process. We are asking them to take good care of their POWs as they have done so before,” said Villasanta.

Villasanta said that it is high time for the peace process to continue and he urges the government to start with the full implementation of the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law), a human rights accord signed by both the NDF and the former Estrada government.

He said that though the CARHRIHL was long signed, and is used as reference by both parties, in truth, it is not yet “fully implemented.”

“Included in the CARHRIHL is that both parties would recognize that each member of their armed group, either the NPA or the AFP, is only made to answer in their own separate courts,” he said.

“I was invited by the OPAPP last September and it seems that the government side of the peace negotiation is unclear,” he said.

He added that the Aquino government “fears” of giving the NDF a “belligerent status.”

“The current GPH peace panel should not fear it because what comes out of the negotiations will benefit the people,” he said. (John Rizle Saligumba/

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