MARIHATAG, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/27 December) — The National Democratic Front (NDF)-Mindanao on Friday said peace talks with the Philippine government will likely restart soon as its armed wing released two Army soldiers held captive for four months in Bukidnon on Friday, five days after two soldiers were also freed in Montevista, Compostela Valley.
NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos told a crowd that gathered here to celebrate the 46th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that Pfc Marnel Tagalugon Cinches and PFC Jerrel Hapay Yorong were freed in Barangay St. Peter, Malaybalay City on Friday to show the government they are serious in restarting the peace talks.
On December 21, the NPA released Pfc Alvin Ricarte and Cpl. Benjamin Enot Samano to Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte in Montevista, Compostela Valley. The two soldiers were captured during a raid by the NPA Guerilla Front 33 at the compound of Sumifru in New Corella town, Davao del Norte province last December 2.
Madlos said they will also release in January police officers Marichel Unclara Contemplo , Democrito Bondoc and Junrie Amper who were seized by the NPA in Surigao del Norte last November.
“We have shown our sincerity by releasing all the prisoners-of-wars in Mindanao. It is now the turn of the government to show if they are indeed sincere,” Madlos said.
Madlos said they invited NDF peace panel vice chair Fidel Agcaoili to the celebration to listen to the sentiments of the party members and their supporters.
The celebration, however, turned into peace consultation as allied organizations passed on to Agcaoili several resolutions in support of the re-starting of the peace talks.
Onstage, Agcaoili addressed party members and supporters, as he spoke of restarting the peace talks with the government next year. The Aquino administration bows out of office on June 30, 2016.
Hernani Braganza, Agrarian Reform Secretary under the Arroyo administration and a member of the government peace panel in the negotiations with the NDF then, also attended the anniversary rites here but did not go onstage like Agcaoili.
Braganza is reportedly doing back-channel talks with the NDF for the re-starting of the talks.
Also on Friday, NDF peace panel consultant and CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison was reported by Interksyon.com as saying from his base in the Netherlands that peace talks with the government may resume “as early as the second half of January.”
The anniversary celebration was attended by party members and supporters who came on two buses including two air-conditioned coasters, trucks and vans from all parts of Mindanao.
In a separate activity in Barangay St. Peter , Malaybalay City, NPA rebels freed Army soldiers Cinches and Yorong of the 8th Infantry Battalion to a local crisis management group headed by Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Independente Filipinas.
On the way to Cagayan de Oro, a minor verbal tussle erupted between the military and the local crisis management group over the custody of the two soldiers.
Edmundo Pacamalan Jr., head of the Misamis Oriental Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the misunderstanding was patched up shortly and the group was allowed by the military to proceed to the Archbishop’s residence in Cagayan de Oro. (Froilan O. Gallardo / MindaNews)