LAAK, Compostela Valley (MindaNews / 21 Feb) – A policeman and Army soldier held captive by the New Peoples Army (NPA) since January 17 were freed at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The Compostela Valley-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-regional Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) released SPO1 Ruel Pasion and PFC Jezreel Culango, of the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion, to conveners of Sowing the Seeds of Peace, which in turn turned them over to Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The NPA’s release order said there was no sufficient evidence to warrant their arrest for crimes against the Filipino masses and the revolutionary movement.
The NPA said the release was a favorable response to the appeal of the captives’ families and the concerted efforts of peace advocates and was in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the GPH-NDFP’s Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
The third party facilitators were Bishop Denny Dapitan of the Diocese of Agusan and Surigao del Sur of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI); Rev. Fr. Antonio Orillos, IFI, Bayugan Church in Surigao del Sur; Pastor Edgar Ugal of the United Church of Christ in the
Philippines and the Exodus for Justice and Peace; and Pastor Jurie Jaime, spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Mindanao.
Bishiop Dapitan said Sowing the Seeds was grateful for the NPA’s decision to release the two captives in a peaceful manner.
He said the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should resume for discussion on comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms (CASER).
The Bishop said CASER will address the root cause of the more than four-decade-old insurgency.
Duterte, who arrived at the venue at 3 p.m. on board a white helicopter, thanked th for the NPA, Communistst Party of the Philippines and NDFP for obeying the process of the conduct of war and the Geneva Convention.
He said what the communist group is fighting for are true, citing oppression, imperialism and land reform and that he was one with their causes, except for the armed struggle.
“I’m not for war because I don’t have weapon,” he said in Cebuano.
He added that he will not give bullets or weapons to the rebels but will give them medicines and help in hospitalization as they are Filipinos.
“We have our own roles in life,” he stressed.
Pasion and Culango were captured last January 17 at Brgy. Mangloy here in Laak.
Pasion was on his way for duty to San Isidro town in Davao del Norte, but passed through a shorter route that led him to the NPA’s checkpoint at Front 33 Sub-regional Command 4 under the CPP-NPA Regional Operations Command-Southern Mindanao.
Culango, on the other hand, came from his duty at the Globe Telecommunications at San Isidro when he was caught at the checkpoint.
For a month and four days in the hands of their captors, the two said they were unharmed. Culango said they were moved by how they were treated and taken care of.
Pasion said they endured the constant mobility in the mountains because of the help of “mga kauban” (comrades). “They fed us and treated us like their brothers,” he added.
He said their health was regularly monitored to make sure that they could endure the life in the mountains until their release.
“Wherever in the forest we were, they kept informing our families on our condition so they did not have to worry,” Culango said.
Both c said the NPA members treated everybody equally, and that they are helping and struggling for the poor people. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)