Soldiers freed

NPA’s Mt. Alip Command releases two soldiers held for 3 months
THE NEW People’s Army (NPA) yesterday released two prisoners of war (POWs) in a hinterland barangay in Digos City, Davao del Sur.

The release of Sgt. Solaiman Calucop and Pfc. Samuel Garay, was facilitated by the local government of Davao del Sur and a third party facilitator, Sowing the Seeds of Peace.

Calucop and Garay were abducted in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat, on Feb. 2, this year. They were released after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) issued a suspension of military operations order Tuesday.

Earlier, NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos said their scheduled release of Calucop and Garay was supposed to be on April 11 somewhere in the Socsargen region but was cancelled because of the military and police operations in South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani Province and General Santos region.

Madlos stressed that the operations placed the lives of the POWs, their families and the third-party facilitators at risk.

He added that the group is set to release three more captives in Bukidnon and the Caraga region.

Soldier’s wives

The wives of Sgt. Soliman Calacop and Pfc. Samuel Garay openly displayed their affection and deep longing for their husbands who were held captive for three months by the communist rebels.

After tearfully embracing the enlisted men of the Philippine Army when they were presented and released to local government officials, both sat on the laps of their husbands wiping their tears and thanking the custodial unit of the New People’s Army’s Mt. Alip Command for sparing the lives of their loved ones.

Sgt. Calacop and Pfc. Garay were conducting peace and development efforts in a remote village in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat when they were ‘arrested’ by the NPAs.

Their capture came days after the NPA General Command headed by Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris announced it was withdrawing the unilateral ceasefire it declared when the peace talks with the Philippine government were resumed in August last year.

Ka Macario Dilaab, spokesman of the Mt. Alip Command of the Far South Mindanao Regional command of the NPA said the two government soldiers were released on humanitarian grounds and upon orders of the central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Ka Macario said the two were actively engaged in gathering information on the movement of the rebels but showed remorse and thus were spared from punishment.

“(Nguni’t) nakita ang kanilang pagsisisi sa panahon ng kanilang detensyon, imbestigasyon at sa pagsailalim sa proseso,” Ka Macario explained.

The rebel spokesman said the two promised not to engage in “anti-people” activities.

Ka Macario likewise said the release of the “prisoners of war “ (POWs) is an exercise of authority by the rebel’s “organs of political power.”

He further said the two were released unharmed in accordance to the Geneva Convention and were turned over to Columbio Vice Mayor Edwin Bermudez and South Cotabato Board Member Romulo Solivio.

Also present were Davao del Sur provincial administrator and former Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas who represented his father Gov. Douglas Cagas.

The Far South Mindanao Regional Command of NPA is among the most active units of the communist rebels even when the unilateral ceasefire declared by both the NDF and the GRP.

Revolutionary taxes

The Mt. Alip command has been engaged in bus burning and attack on construction firms as well as agricultural plantations who refuse to pay revolutionary tax.

Macario also defended their continuing collection of revolutionary taxes.

The rebel authority, Ka Macario later explained, has the same power to collect taxes the way the Philippine government exact taxes from the people.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said the rebels must stop collecting revolutionary tax in order for the peace process to proceed.

The communist rebels and the government have resumed negotiations after these were abruptly terminated in February following allegations of violations of the unilateral ceasefire declared by both sides last year.

But in The Netherlands last month, both parties agreed to explore the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement after they will hammer out the mechanics and parameters in the formal lull in the fighting.

The peace negotiations will resume for the 5th round late May, also in The Netherlands.

More POWs

Meanwhile, last April 6, two town mayors in Bukidnon have asked police and military officials to suspend operations to pave way for the safe release of Police Officer 2 Anthony Natividad who was abducted by the NPA on February 9 in Tikalaan village, Talakag, Bukidnon.

Natividad was set to be released last March 2 but was cancelled due to the series of clashes with the military in the area. The NPA has not yet announced a new release date. (with reports Edwin Espejo)

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