SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte Province — The New People’s Army released another batch of prisoners of war in a village somewhere in Surigao del Norte province on Saturday, August 27 bringing to seven the total number of prisoners released by the rebel group coinciding with the successful first round of talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.
The release of prisoners Police Officers 2 Caleb Sinaca, PO3 Jayroll Bagayas and non-uniformed personnel Rodrigo Angob of the Malimono Municipal Police Station and SPO3 Santiago Lamanilao of the Surigao City Police Office in Surigao del Norte came after 32 days in captivity.
The four police officers were arrested on July 24 in Barangay Cagtinae in Malimono by guerrilla fighters of the NPA’s Front 16.
The release of the prisoners was facilitated by Surigao del Norte Vice Governor Arturo Carlos Egay, Jr, Surigao City Vice Mayor Alfonso Casurra, church leaders of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Exodus for Justice and Peace who acted as third party facilitators.
During a press conference after the release of the prisoners, Ka Oto, an NPA leader, said the investigation on the alleged involvement of the police officials in drug trade has been halted after the NDF gave an order to release the prisoners on August 16 as a goodwill measure for the ongoing peace negotiations.
He said that they urge the PNP to conduct its own probe on the police officers.
SPO3 Lamanilao delivered a message during the ceremonies and said that he is thankful to the custodial unit of the NPAs who treated them well during their captivity.
“Tinuod giatiman nila kami sa among panglawas ug sa among pagkaon kay hugot man nilang gisubay ang balaod sa gyera, kanang giingon nga protocols of war (It is true that they treated us well, they monitored our health and gave us food because they strictly follow the protocols of war),” Lamanilao said.
The NPA also released on Friday, three prisoners of war, including Richard Vaz Yu of the PNP in Carmen town, Surigao del Sur who was arrested in Barangay San Vicente by a team of the NPA Front 30 on July 5, 2016. The other two prisoners released were police officers from Davao Oriental province, Police Chief Inspector Arnold Ongachen of the Governor Generoso Municipal Police Station and PO1 Michael Grande of Banaybanay Municipal Police Station.
In an emailed statement on August 16, Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front Northeastern Mindanao, said “they were arrested for their involvement in illegal drugs and illegal gambling in Malimono and Surigao City.”
Sinaca was accused as a protector of illegal drug trade and the illegal logging trade in the same town. Malaya said he is also known for his extortion activities of small-scale miners and has threatened and harassed peasants those who were working for his father, Dario Sinaca.
The arrest, according to NPA, was conducted as part of its own anti-drug campaign.
“The NDFP-NEMR has done a preliminary investigation of the five POW and will turn over the results of the NPA’s investigation to the third party facilitator and the PNP through its Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa in the hope that it will assist them in their own investigation,” Malaya said.
Moreover, the NDF has ordered the suspension of all offensive operations of the New People’s Army in Surigao del Sur and Surigao del Norte until August 31, 2016 in time for the release of five prisoners of war held in custody of the NPAs.
But with closing of the five-day peace talks on Friday, August 26, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NDFP said it shall declare and issue an indefinite unilateral ceasefire order to the NPA and the people’s militia, upon the end of their current ceasefire order in response to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire effective indefinitely from August 21.
The first round of the formal talks in concluded with a signing of the “Joint Statement on the Resumption of the Formal Peace Talks in the Peace Negotiations”.
Both panels agreed on six points: reaffirmation of previously signed agreements, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) list, acceleration of the peace negotiations, releases of political prisoners, amnesty proclamation and ceasefire. (davaotoday.com)