MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/10 October) – In a span of one week, the New People’s Army in Mindanao pulled off three acts that apparently made the military seethe in one corner while the rebels basked in the media attention that they got – the simultaneous attack on three mining firms in Claver, Surigao del Norte, and the release of seven captives.
A party-list lawmaker known for his rabid anti-communist stance dismissed the release of the captives as a face-saving gesture on the part of the dissidents. But judging from his hysterical reaction, he was suggesting that the rebels may have actually put government in a politically defensive position. In fact, as quoted by MindaNews reporter Cong Corrales, GPH peace negotiator Ednar Dayanghirang conceded that “the recent releases of their captives promotes a better environment for the end-October talks,” adding the government peace panel will take up the calls for the release of the detained peace consultants of the National Democratic Front.
The net public perception of the raid on the mining firms remains debatable. But the releases, done on two successive days, were something else. The events, which were caught on TV complete with the touching scenes of wives hugging their newly-freed husbands, somehow gave the rebel group a human face. Add to that the profuse expression of thanks by the captives, in particular Mayor Henry Dano of Lingig, Surigao del Sur and his two Army escorts, Corporal Alrey Desamparado and Private First Class Alan Saban, to the NPA for giving them another lease on life.
Regardless of how they view their captors as military men, I do believe that Desamparado and Saban were sincere in their words of gratitude. They surely hated the day they were abducted but were nonetheless grateful that they came out of their ordeal alive. Reports said that the two soldiers had been meted the death penalty for alleged acts of espionage but were set free on account of their having issued an apology, the same reason given for Dano’s release. Second chances are always a good thing, and perhaps it sounds more meaningful when given by an enemy that was about to snuff your life out.
In short, the whole thing, starting from the raid to the captives’ release, became another propaganda coup by the rebels. The raid gave the impression that the NPA, at least in Mindanao, is anything but a spent force and remains a headache for a government bent on luring investors to the mining industry. The rebels may have cited the environmental destruction wrought by those companies as the reason behind the attack. Yet I am inclined to believe that it had another purpose – to convince the Aquino government to take them seriously in the peace talks.
On the other hand, the captives’ release was meant to draw support to the NDF’s call for the release their detained peace consultants. The rebel group’s message to government was this: We have done out part, now it’s your turn. Peace advocacy groups, religious leaders and even some politicians have echoed such call to government, obliging the GPH peace panel, as revealed by Mr. Dayanghirang himself, to take it up in their meeting on Wednesday (October 12).
Let’s see what happens after Wednesday. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])