SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/29 July) — Communist rebels have agreed to release Tuesday the four police officers they captured early this month in Alegria, Surigao del Norte.
PO3 Vic Calubag Concon, PO1 Rey O’niel Morales, PO1 Joen Zabala and PO1 Edito Roquino, all of Alegria, were seized by a blocking force of the New People’s Army during the raid on the town’s police station.
“As a goodwill gesture to promote the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and as a response to the appeals of the families of the Prisoners of War (POWs), the NDFP is releasing the four POWs recently taken into custody by the New People’s Army,” Luis G. Jalandoni, peace panel chair of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines said in his letter dated July 27, 2014.
He said the NPA declared a ceasefire for the towns of Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Placer, Tubod and Alegria of Surigao del Norte and Kitcharao, Jabonga and Santiago of Agusan del Norte beginning on noon of July 27, 2014 until 12:00 noon of August 1, 2014.
“The NPA ceasefire corresponds with the Suspension of Military Operations and Suspension of the Police Operations issued for the same area and period of time,” he added.
Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Independent Church of the Philippines-Diocese of Surigao, who is acting as third party the lead convenor said the military and police top commands had ordered a suspension of operations against the rebel group.
“A five-day ceasefire which had started last July 27, 2014 and scheduled to end on August 1, 2014 was formally declared and adopted by both the GRP and the NDFP pursuant to their official orders to their respective field units,” he said.
The bishop said the mutual declarations eventually led to the agreement to release the captive policemen today.
“The process will be collectively facilitated by the Third Party with the approval of both the GRP through the DILG, and the NDFP through the NPA Custodial Force. The actual release would be held in the Municipality of Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, today, July 29, 2014, and will be attended by the representatives of the both parties, together with the leaders of the religious groups from the CARAGA Region,” he said.
“This auspicious development revealed a positive step towards the resumption of the much clamored peace talks,” he said.
“This momentous event provides a meaningful and concrete impetus to renew the aforementioned peace process. From the perspective of the Third Party it symbolizes our common respect and valuing of human lives in face of blatant contradictions and interests. It purposely shows that peace can be achieved if even for the sake of our common understanding of the dignity of human life,” he stressed.
Last July 10, the four policemen were abroad a patrol car when they were flagged down by a blocking force of the NPA in Barangay Puntod, Alegria, while other rebels attacked the police station.
Two policemen and a civilian were wounded during the raid. During their retreat two rebels were killed in a shootout with responding policemen from Kitcharao.
The family of the abducted police officers couldn’t wait for their safe release.
Chuchie R. Morales, 33, the wife of PO1 Rey O’niel Morales, said they all have been suffering sleepless nights since the abduction of her husband. They have three children age 10, 9 and 7.
“My children are really affected by this very sad situation because they’re looking for their dad. Me and my relatives are worried on the situation of the captives which include my husband because we don’t know their condition and whereabouts,” she said.
She said her eldest son told her he had been sad since their father was seized by the NPA.
“Ma, karon nga wala si papa, dili naman ta happy,” she quoted her son as saying.
“Nagpuyo man god kami nga malipayon ug malinawon sa balay. Nganong ihikaw man namo kini. Mismo among mga bata nga gagmay pa moingon nga dili na kita happy nga wala si papa,” (We are living a happy and peaceful life. Why should this be taken away from us? My kids are so young and yet they can say that their life is not happy without their father) Chuchie said in tears.
She said she didn’t know how to answer her children’s questions.
“Sagdi lang kay mouli ra kadto si papa, bantayan lang siya ni God,” (Your dad will come back home soon. God will protect him.) Chuchie told her kids.
She added she never had a chance to speak to her husband on the phone since the abduction. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)