DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 April) — The New People’s Army (NPA) released on Monday the five police officers it held as captives for nine days in Purok 1, Brgy. Lumiad in Paquibato District here.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte facilitated the release of the five police captives who were brought by a helicopter to the headquarter of the Police Regional Office 11 at Camp Quintin M. Merecido at past 4 p.m.
The five police captives were identified as Chief Insp. Leonardo V. Tarongoy, the station commander of Paqubato Police Station; PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas; PO3 Rudolf Pacete; PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr.; and PO2 Neil C. Arellano.
They were heading toward Brgy. Salapawan to attend to a civilian who was injured in a clash between the military and NPA on April 16 when they were flagged down in Brgy. Mapula.
Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, chief of 10 Infantry Division’s Public Affairs Office, said 60 armed men attacked the detachment in Quiman-anao, Salapawan.
Government militiamen retaliated but withdrew as the attackers outnumbered them. The NPA took 19 assorted high-powered firearms.
Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Regional Operations Command-Southern Mindanao Region, said the 1st Pulang Bagani Command abducted the police officers and declared them prisoners-of-war.
Duterte said he asked the leadership of the NPA in Southern Mindanao to release the police captives as they have nothing to do with the military operations.
“They are just there to investigate. Pano pag may nakawan, ni-rape?,” he said as he recalled the instances how he appealed for the release of the abducted police officers in the past.
He reiterated that the NPA must spare the police who are only exercising their duties as law enforcers.
PRO 11 director Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan vowed to continue exercising their responsibilities as he lambasted the rebel group for allegedly using the police for their “propaganda stunt”.
“We will not be cowed by any groups as we continue serving the people even if there there will be more abductions,” he said.
He said they consider the five police as heroes who were captured in the performance of their duties.
Duterte said the NPA thought the police went there as reinforcement.
“Akala ko ba hindi hinuhuli ang police. Sabi nila ‘Akala namin nag-reinforce.’ I cannot go there, climb to the mountains because I had to go to Manila. Sabi ko ‘I will retrieve them ASAP pagbalik ko.’ Madali lang naman,” he said.
“Kung ayaw ninyo sa Army, okay lang. Pero police, may jurisdiction ako kasi mga tao ko ‘yan,” he said.
Duterte told the police not to engage rebels in a firefight.
“Do not fight them. Wag magdala ng baril,” he said.
The mayor also brushed aside rumors that he is a member of the NPA, saying he can “speak in the same language” because he is a leftist himself.
“I am Left because I am a son of a poor man… I do not subscribe to armed struggle,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)