SUGBONGCOGON, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/20 Nov) – Flanked by top cadres of the New Peoples Army, a frail-looking Private First Class Adonis Jess Lupiba of the Philippine Army walked the last few steps to freedom on Friday in Barangay Kaulayanan, ending 133 days in captivity.
In a three-hour ceremony, the 26-year-old Lupiba was turned over to Misamis Gov. Yevgeny Emano and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente who travelled to the hinterland village to get the soldier.
“It is a wonderful day for peace. I am glad this ended well despite the tense negotiations for the release of Lupiba,” Calang said.
FREED. After 133 days in captivity, Army PFC. Adonis Jess Lupiba (in white shirt) signs his release papers from his NPA captors in barangay Kaulayanan, Sugbongcogon town in Misamis Oriental on Nov. 20, 2015. Lupiba was captured by the rebels after a brief firefight in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City last July 11, 2015. Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (extreme left) witnesses the signing rites. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo
Lupiba’s wife, Henelou and his family broke into tears when Calang and Emano handed the soldier to them after he signed his release papers from the NPA.
Allan Juanito, NPA spokesperson for North Central Mindanao said they released Lupiba after finding he did not commit any crime against the revolutionary movement and the people.
The rebels captured Lupiba after a brief firefight in Barangay Alagatan in Gingoog City, also in Misamis Oriental last July 11, 2015.
Lupiba said he surrendered to the rebels to prevent innocent bystanders from being caught in a crossfire.
“I could have chosen to fight because I was hidden in a fortified position but when I heard the cries from civilians, I had to lay down my firearm. I told the rebels I will surrender if they stop firing,” Lupiba narrated.
The rest of Lupiba’s patrol was able to run away but one of their companions, Corporal Nadir Bairulla, was killed while two civilians were wounded.
An NPA cadre brings freed captive Army PFC. Adonis Jess Lupiba to his family and third party facilitators led by Misamis Gov. Yevgeny Emano and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in barangay Kaulayanan, Sugbongcogon town in Misamis Oriental on Nov. 20, 2015. Lupiba was captured by the rebels after a brief firefight in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City last July 11, 2015. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo
Lupiba said the rebels brought him to some of the roughest terrains in Mindanao and for food they subsisted on root crops, canned goods and occasional wild pigs in the forests.
“Luckily I did not get sick during my 133 days of captivity except for some colds,’ he said.
Lupiba said the rebels treated him well although his hands had chains to restrain him and a guard to watch him 24 hours.
After his release, Lupiba was brought to the Misamis Oriental provincial capitol where he was turned over to his Army superiors Friday night.
Lt. Col. Jose Eriel Niembra, commander of the Army 58th Infantry Battalion said Lupiba will immediately undergo a series of medical tests and debriefing sessions.
“We consider him a hero for laying down his firearm to save the residents of Barangay Alagatan. No one is braver than a soldier who is willing to sacrifice everything including his own life to protect the people, “ Niembra said,
He said the entire Army 4th Division headquarters will turn out to give Lupiba a hero’s welcome in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro on Saturday.
Lupiba’s release came 17 days after the NPA in Compostela Valley released two soldiers it held captive since September.
On November 3, the NPA released Private First ClassMarjon Anover and PFC Nino Alavazo, both 23, and turned them over to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)