By: Mart D. Sambalud
MONTEVISTA, Compostela Valley—The two soldiers who were freed by the New People’s Army Sunday afternoon have appealed to the government to resume the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“I am appealing to the government to resume the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines so that the decades-long war against the New People’s Army will end. I am saying this to help our country achieve a lasting peace,” Army’s Corporal Benjamin Enot Samano told DavaoToday in an interview.
Samano, 37, said the ongoing war was a result of a “defective system” prevailing in the government.
“As a soldier, I also desire to make peace with them [NPA] because the war that is happening in the hinterlands should be blamed on the defective system. We are Filipinos yet we are killing one another because of differences in ideology and principle which has resulted to war,” said Samano.
“To have a lasting peace and end this war, the government should resume the peace talks with the NPAs as soon as possible,” stressed Samano.
Private First Class Alvin Ricarte, 23, has also echoed the same appeal, saying the “peace could only be achieved if the government will pursue the peace talks with the communists.”
“They [NPAs] have treated me well during the days when I was held in captivity. They are not harsh. I am thankful to God for he has answered my prayers that I will be with my family,” said Ricarte.
In a short program Sunday, Samano and Ricarte were joined by their families after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte received them and signed their respective release order.
Samano and Ricarte’s release was brokered by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and facilitated by Exodus for Justice and Peace, an interfaith church-based group.
Samano and Ricarte, both Army troopers of 60th Infantry Battallion, were held in captivity for 19 days since December 2. Both were freed and endorsed to Duterte Sunday afternoon in a remote area in Montevista, Compostela Valley by virtue of a “release order” issued by the National Democratic Front- Southern Mindanao Region.
The NDF-Southern Mindanao Region ordered the release of Samano and Ricarte after it conducted a thorough investigation.
“It found no strong evidence to continue the process of prosecution against the prisoners of wars (POWs) regarding the serious crimes it committed to people of the Philippines and to the revolutionary government.”
It also said the release “is in compliance to the provisions of CARHRIHL and Geneva Conventions and other protocols such as Geneva Conventions of 1949 adhered by the NDF-Southern Mindanao Region.”
The three-page release order was signed by Rubi Del Mundo and implemented by Ka Aris Francisco of ComVal-North Davao South Agusan Sub-Regional Command.
For Samano, the NPAs’ humane treatment to him is a gesture of goodwill and sincerity of the communist rebels to a lasting peace.
“In our own experience, they [NPA] did not maltreat us. In fact, we have been treated humanely. I hope the government will go back to the table to negotiate and settle the issue,” said Samano.
“We are very thankful that they have given us a second chance to live as we are hoping to celebrate the Christmas and New Year,” he added. —MART D. SAMBALUD/davaotoday.com