CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/11 August)— The New People’s Army should release the four Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel unconditionally “if they are really for the people” instead of proposing to government an exchange of “prisoners of war”, an Army official today said.
“The government jailers should not be considered combatants and thus should not be branded as ‘prisoners of war’,” Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division said in a phone interview, Thursday.
“It is not within our level to decide for a proposal for a prisoner exchange. A crisis coordinating council is already organized and we have an ongoing rescue operation for the four BJMP personnel. But these BJMP officers have no fault against them (NPA). They were just doing their jobs,” he said.
Osias also said that although it is not entirely up to them to decide, 4ID commanding general Maj. Gen. Victor Felix has committed to facilitate the safe release of the BJMP officers to the crisis coordinating council.
He added, however, that they are open to any measure would assure the safe release of the jail employees.
“Unless directed otherwise by higher headquarters, we are open to any possible way as long as it assures the safe release of the BJMP personnel be it through combat operations, active negotiations or political pressure,” he said.
The rebels abducted Jail Inspectors Eric Llamasares and Murphy Todyog , Special Jail Officer 2 Rogelio Begontes and JO1 Rolando Bajuyo Jr. during a daring early morning “rescue” of their alleged comrade Dennis Rodenas last July 21 along the highway in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
The NPA has reportedly sent feelers to Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan that they wanted a prisoner exchange.
In an emailed statement, Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command said they have “accorded the four personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology the status of prisoners of war.”
“Under international conventions, the POW status is a protective status that guarantees the recognition and full respect of the POW’s basic rights,” the statement said.
Osias said they will continue their rescue operations and that the NPA should reconsider their current position if “they are really serious in forging a peace agreement with the government.”
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its political arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
A fresh round of talks between the Maoist revolutionary movement and the Philippine Government is scheduled next month where both panels are expected to exchange drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)