NPA says freed soldiers still being watched

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 May) – Two soldiers who were released last Sunday by the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in North Cotabato were still being monitored to see if they would not violate human rights and laws of war, the rebel group said.


In a statement, Isabel Santiago, spokesperson of the Herminio Alfonso Command (HAC) Front 53 Operations Command said that Cpl. Delfin Sarocam and Pfc. Jayson Valenzuela, of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, only obtained “probationary freedom”.


Santiago said they will continue keeping watch of their former captives as operatives of the 57th IB’s civil-military operations.


“We released the two because of humanitarian consideration and due to several requests coming from the soldiers’ families and relatives, and from the civil society groups,” she said.


In an interview, Ka Laya said that the soldiers admitted to them that if they had a choice, they would rather work in a private firm than become a soldier.


“Poverty has driven them to become soldiers,” said Ka Laya.


Lt. Manuel Gatus, who heads the CMO of the 57th IB, said that after the release of Sarocam and Valenzuela, they were taken to the headquarters of the 6th Infantry Division in Camp Siongco, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao to undergo debriefing.


The result of the debriefing would determine if the two soldiers would return to regular duty or stay in the barracks, Gatus said.


They would also be ordered to write down their experiences while in captivity and to undergo psychological test, including trauma counseling, he added.


On April 14, Sarocam and Valenzuela were captured by the NPA on their way to Barangay Puas Inda in President Roxas, North Cotabato for a meeting with the villagers. They were taken somewhere in Bukidnon, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur, reports said.


After 45 days in captivity, the rebels turned over Sarocam and Valenzuela to Father Pol Paracha, spokesperson of the For Release Now Movement, a group organized last May 7 by members of civil society organizations, religious sector, selected journalists, and relatives and friends of the soldiers to negotiate for the release. (Malu Manar/MindaNews)