SUMILAO, Bukidnon (MindaNews/11 October) — Malaybalay bishop Jose A. Cabantan welcomed the release of four officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology by the New People’s Army, but said the rebel group must also consider freeing the six vendors of sleeping mats they snatched in August on suspicion of being government spies.
The NPA released Saturday in Magpet town, North Cotabato the four BJMP officers they abducted in Kitaotao, Bukidnon on July 21. The next day, they freed Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Henry Dano and his two military escorts, Corporal Alrey Desamparado and Private First Class Alan Saban, in Barangay New Visayas, Trento, Agusan del Sur.
Cabantan said the releases showed the rebels’ commitment to adhere to the international rules governing armed conflict.
The peddlers, who have been in NPA custody since August 10, were identified as James Mabaylan, Nelson Bagares, Segundino Dailo, Ernesto Callo Jr., Julieto Sarsaba and Ronald Boiles, all from Initao, Misamis Oriental.
Earlier, the NPA Front 88 in Bukidnon had admitted to the “arrest” of the mat vendors for alleged espionage. The rebel group claimed the vendors were caught doing surveillance work while selling their products door-to-door.
Cabantan, quoting Fr. Bong Polinar, rector of the San Jose de Mindanao Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City, stressed that the vendors are innocent.
He said Polinar, former Initao parish priest, could attest that the six are really mat vendors.
Last week, Fr. Nathan Lerio, director of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro’s Social Action Center urged the rebels to release the vendors “without harm and ransom.”
The priest, in an article posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, appealed for “respect for human rights and promote democratic and peaceful dwelling being freed from harassment and coercion”.
“We cannot attain peace and prosperity through human right violations but only in the spirit of dialogue, self-giving love and respect human dignity that we enjoy a peaceful and progressive society,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan also welcomed the releases.
In an SMS sent Sunday, Calingasan said it showed that “rebels are not that bad” and that the peace process was working. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)