DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 February) – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-Mindanao has vowed to release its “prisoners of war” (POWs) as a “gesture of support” for the resumption of peace negotiations.
In a statement dated February 17, 2017 but released on February 23, NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson Joaquin Jacinto said the release will take place “even as fighting continues in the field.”
The captives were identified as Pfc Edwin Salan, captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29; Sgt Solaiman Calucop and Pfc Samuel Garay, captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2; PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9; and two alleged paramilitary men Rene Doller and Carl Mark, both captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14.
“The respective regions will soon announce the details of the release of these aforementioned prisoners of war,” Jacinto said.
He said they encouraged the government to heed the call of the Filipino people “for the resumption of formal talks with the NDFP, despite the absence of any ceasefire agreement.”
He added President Rodrigo R. Duterte should not ignore the clamor for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.
“If genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are carried out to the satisfaction of Filipino peasants, workers and national minorities, millions will surely benefit and significantly improve their lives,” he said.
“Both the GRP and the NDFP owe it to the Filipino masses, at the very least, to continue to buckle down in significant dialogue and thresh out, and possibly agree on, means to eradicate the very roots of armed conflict in the country, which are feudal exploitation, US imperialist domination and bureaucrat-capitalism,” he added.
Jacinto said the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP lifted its unilateral ceasefire due to the non-release of over 400 political detainees and the alleged incursions by government forces into “hundreds of communities in both cities and the countryside in Mindanao and the rest of the country” in the guise of military and police operations.
“In this context, the NPA, in active-defense mode, was only duty-bound to launch offensives against operating AFP/PNP troops in order to defend these communities from state-sponsored atrocities,” he said.
In a statement released by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process on Tuesday, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said that Duterte is eyeing a strategic shift in the peace negotiation with the communists.
Dureza said the president told the government peace panel to study what approach should be taken the cancellation of peace negotiations with the communists and the termination of the unilateral ceasefire declarations by both sides.
“He (Duterte) lamented that the almost 50-year old insurgency and conflict still continue to this day and vowed to work for a strategic shift during his incumbency,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)