CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — The government peace panel will meet on Wednesday to discuss calls made for the release of detained National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultants in light of the latter’s release of its captives in Mindanao over the weekend, a peace panel member said Monday.
“The recent releases of their captives promotes a better environment for the end-October talks
We will discuss the matter (of releasing the detained consultants of NDF) on Wednesday,” GPH peace panel member and Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) chair Ednar Dayanghirang said in a text message Monday.
Over the weekend, the New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, released Jail Inspector Murphy Bomoway Todyog, Jail Warden Erico Dacillo Llamasares, Special Jail Officer 2 Rogelio Begontes, and Jail Officer 1 Rolando Delta Bajoyo, Jr. on humanitarian grounds in recognition of the various appeals made by various groups.
The NPA released the four Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officers 3pm on Saturday in Magpet town, North Cotabato.
The four jail officials were captured in Kitaotao, Bukidnon before dawn of July 21 as the NPA staged a daring rescue operation on an alleged rebel bomb expert identified as Dennis Rodenas, who was being transported to the Davao Penal Colony along with eight other inmates.
At 2pm on Sunday, the NPA’s Conrado Heredia Command also released Lingig Mayor Henry Dano and his military escorts, Corporal Alrey Desamparado and Private First Class Alan Saban to their wives in Barangay New Visayas, Trento, Agusan del Sur.
The Maoist guerrillas released Dano’s escorts, who they claimed belong to the 4th Infantry Division’s intelligence unit, “despite a strong basis for the imposition of the maximum penalty of death by the military tribunal on account of the blood debts and acts of espionage they have committed against the revolutionary movement in the course of their performance of AFP military intelligence work.”
Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Norris Babiera, for his part, said the release of the NPA’s captives should be viewed as the NDF’s confidence-building measure and enjoined the government to do the same by releasing the 13 NDF peace consultants.
“The release by NDFP of (Lingig) Mayor (Henry) Dano, his military details and BJMP officers is a confidence building move. We are calling for government to release all NDFP consultants also. Let us all support the peace process. Let the resumption of the peace talks begin and declare a truce,” Babiera said in a text message Monday.
In another development, progressive party-list lawmakers made an appeal to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III Monday “for a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty for some 354 political prisoners languishing in various jails throughout the country, including 13 consultants of the National Democratic Front.”
“At least 20 members of the House have agreed to co-author a resolution drafted by the Makabayan bloc composed of Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus, Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino and ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, urging the President to grant a long overdue amnesty to the said political prisoners,” the statement said.
“In light of the recent release of the prisoners of the NPA it would be a good move for the Aquino administration to grant a general amnesty for political prisoners. The coming Christmas season would be an opportune time to grant the amnesty,” Casiño said in the statement.
He pointed out that Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos granted a general amnesty that led to the release of political detainees in pursuit of the government’s peace and reconciliation programs.
(Only President Corazon Aquino had granted a general amnesty to political prisoners. – Ed.)
“Last year, President Benigno Simeon Aquino, heeding the clamor of different sectors in society in the first few months of his administration, released about 400 active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and their supporters who rebelled against former President Arroyo,” the statement said.
“Likewise he should order the release of 13 of NDFP consultants under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) so that the peace talks may resume,” Casiño said.
Meanwhile, the 4th Infantry Division has declared they will resume operations against the NPA after today’s lifting of the Suspension of Offensive Military Operation (SOMO).
“It doesn’t mean that since the rebel group released the Mayor and the two army escort, we will go light on them and let them off the hook for what they have done. We will pursue them and bring those behind the kidnapping to justice,” Major Eugenio Julio Osias IV, 4ID spokesperson said.
Earlier this week the army and the police officially suspended operation as part of the demand of the rebel group before they would release their captives.
Osias denied that Dano’s two escorts were assigned to the intelligence unit of the 4th ID.
“Common sense would suggest that if these soldiers were indeed part of the intelligence group then they would be useless if they would continue wearing army uniform in the area. They are not intelligence personnel and are regular soldiers of this division,” he said.
The Philippine National Police on the other hand is preparing the documents for the filing of charges against the abductors of Dano and the two soldiers. (Cong Corrales and Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)