OPENING CEREMONY. Before the program proper for the release of the POWs, the NPAs line up for the singing of the Internationale. (Earl O. Condeza/

New People’s Army (Earl O. Condeza/

DAVAO CITY —- The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region ordered today the release of two captive police officials in Davao Region as a goodwill measure for the resumption of the formal peace talks set on August 22.

The two prisoners-of-war, namely, Police Chief Inspector Arnold Ongachen and Police Officer 1 Michael Grande, are currently in custody of different units of the New People’s Army under the NPA ComVal Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command.

In a statement on Friday, August 19, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of NDF in Southern Mindanao Region said the People’s Democratic Government’s judicial proceedings and investigations “for possible war crimes and violations of people’s rights” have been suspended “in deference to the appeals of their families and peace advocates.”

Ongachen’s and Grande’s families appealed to the New People’s Army to immediately release them in a press conference Thursday, August 18.

Del Mundo said both Ongachen and Grande “have apologized for their violations against the people.”

Ongachen was taken by the NPA in a raid at the Governor Generoso municipal police station in Davao Oriental province on May 29.

Four days after the raid, the NPA released a statement saying that the raid was meant to “punish the protectors of drug trafficking in the area.”

It also claimed  that it found a sachet of shabu in the possession of the police chief during the raid.

Meanwhile, the NPA captured Grande on June 19. Grande is a member of the Banaybanay Municipal Police Stations in Davao who the NPA said was captured due to reports that “he regularly received payoffs from illegal gambling in the area.”

It said that the police official also admitted to have “mauled, harassed and intimidated at gunpoint several civilians in Banay-banay.”

The NPA released a video of Grande on Thursday, night, August 18.

Del Mundo said they assure that a safe release of the prisoners of war “may be conducted pending a GPH undertaking of suspension of military and police offensives.”

NDFP peace consultants released, too

The order for the release of the two prisoners of war came as the courts ordered the release of several political prisoners who are expected to joint the peace negotiations on Monday, August 22.

On Thursday, Ariel Arbitrario and Eduardo Genelsa, two of the three NDF consultants detained in Davao were granted provisional liberty to join the peace talks in Oslo, Norway.

On Friday morning, Wilma and Benito, allegedly the top ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines were also released.

In a statement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said with the release of the Tiamzon couple, “there should no longer be any doubt that President Rodrigo Duterte is serious and determined to find a peaceful solution to the decades old communist insurgency in the country.”

The leaders were granted temporary passes for the duration of the formal peace talks which will begin on Monday, August 22.

“With their release, in addition to more than a dozen of NDF consultants earlier granted bail and already freed, one more stumbling block is removed. We are looking forward to a fruitful but intense negotiations in Oslo,” Dureza said.

Peace negotiations between the Philippine government (GPH) and the NDF were suspended in 2012 due to several disagreements, including the continued arrests and detention of NDF consultants.

Dureza said beginning Tuesday this week, the NDF consultants numbering to 22 were issued Philippine passports.

“The Philippine embassy of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) has also started issuing visas to all delegates from both panels who will travel to Norway for the historic reopening of the GRP-NDF peace negotiations,” he said.

“We have agreed to expedite the peace process by simultaneously holding negotiations on five major agenda items by creating respective reciprocal working groups,” Dureza said.

The peace panels are expected to immediately tackle the social and economic reforms; political and constitutional reforms; end of hostilities and disposition of forces; ceasefire; joint security and immunity guarantees; and release of political detainees.

More than 550 members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, are still in government custody.

The Philippine delegation will leave for Oslo tomorrow evening, August 20. The peace talks are scheduled for August 22-26. (

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