TALAKAG, Bukidnon (MindaNews / 27 April) — The National Democratic Front (NDF) on Thursday released to a group of independent ceasefire monitors, a policeman who was captured by its forces in a roadblock in Bukidnon last January 29.
A small platoon of New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels met a group of third party peace facilitators led by Mayor Oscar Moreno, head of the Region 10 peace and order council; and Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, in Barangay Dominorog.
The rebels flanked Police Officer 2 Anthony Natividad as he walked with his hands restrained by a small iron chain, towards the Dominorog barangay hall, where he was turned over to the civilian monitors.
One of the rebels read a statement from NDF North Central Mindanao spokesperson Cesar Renerio who said Natividad’s release was pursuant to the statement of NDF Chair Fidel Agcaoili that all of their “prisoners of war” should be freed as early as March 2.
“Kami sa NDF-NCMR subling mopaabot sa kandaman nga buhian si PO2 Anthony Natividad sa pinakadaling panahon nga itugot,” Renerio said.
A rebel then took off the iron chain that held the hands of Natividad and presented him to the peace facilitators at the presentable table in the barangay hall.
Natividad who was wearing a blue shirt with 1990 markings, had an emotional reunion with his family who saw him after 88 days of captivity.
Calang, said Natividad would have been released earlier had the Army’s 4th Infantry Division issue a ceasefire declaration.
He said they have to seek the assistance of Mayor Moreno who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council for the Northern Mindanao region comprising Bukidnon, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.
“We are happy that we have a successful outcome because we have worked hard for his release,” Calang said.
Sensing the hesitance of the military to respond to the call of the NPA to stop military operations so they could release the policeman, Moreno wrote a letter entitled “Expressions of Aspirations” appealing to them to stop the military operations in southern Bukidnon for the sake of humanity.
“It is the desire not only of the family of Natividad, but also of the people of affected communities in Bukidnon that he should be safely released,” Moreno wrote, adding that the “safe release of Natividad is a victory for peace.”
The communist rebels captured Natividad in a checkpoint they set up along the highway here on January 29. They also burned several trucks.
President Rodrigo Duterte had set the safe release of all captured soldiers and policeman as one of his conditions for the resumption of peace talks with the communist rebels.
The fourth round of formal peace talks was held in The Netherlands on April 2 to 6. The fifth round will be held in late May but the ceasefire commitees are supposed to meet before then to discuss bilateral ceasefire.
Calang said Natividad was the third captured soldier and policeman to be released by the rebels.
He said the rebels are set to release a soldier in Surigao del Norte this Saturday. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)