SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/06 January) – The wives and relatives of three policemen who were snatched by the New People’s Army in Surigao del Norte almost two months ago on Monday asked the military for a troop pullout from the province’s hinterlands to facilitate the safe release of their loved ones.
“I’m asking the military to abide by the Suspension of Military Operations for the quick and safe release of our husbands because news reports said military operations are still ongoing. We’re afraid that our loved ones would be endangered and this (operation) is preventing the release of the captives,” Matosalem L. Polvorosa, wife of PO3 Democrito Polvorosa Jr. said in Cebuano.
PO1 Jonry Amper’s wife, Christine, and relatives of PO1 Marichel Unclara Contemplo, another captive policeman, aired a similar appeal.
Amper was taken in Malimono town last Nov. 12 while Polvorosa and Contemplo were seized in Alegria town last Nov. 16.
Amper was driving his XRM Honda motorbike in Barangay Bunyasan in Malimono town at 9:45 a.m. on Nov. 12 when he was flagged down by at least eight heavily armed suspected NPA members. He was believed to have been brought to the mountainous part of Barangay Tinago, also in Malimono.
The rookie cop was conducting discreet surveillance on reports that unidentified armed men were roaming in Bunyasan.
Four days after, Polvorosa and Contemplo were abducted on the way to Barangay Pungtod aboard a patrol car supposedly for a meeting with personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and local residents for the Pantawid Pampamilyang Pilipino Program.
In an email sent to MindaNews on December 21, National Democratic Front-Mindanao said they will release all the nine “prisoners of war” they were holding at the time.
Of the nine captives, only the three police officers from Surigao del Norte have remained in the hands of the NPA, said Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, spokesperson of NDF-Mindanao.
Madlos told MindaNews during the 46th Anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on December 26 in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur that military operations in Surigao del Norte continued despite the SOMO declaration preventing the release of the remaining captives.
He said government forces were still deployed in Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Placer, Tubod and Alegria towns and some parts of Agusan del Norte.
The government issued a unilateral declaration of ceasefire from the Christmas season to the visit of Pope Francis this month.
The NDF on the other hand declared a shorter truce, from Dec. 24-26, Dec. 31-Jan. 1 and Jan. 15-19.
“We ask the government to be sincere in their declaration of suspension of military operations and the suspension of police operations from December 18, 2014 to January 19, 2015 to pave the way for the safe release of the captives in as soon as possible,” Madlos said.
On Tuesday, MindaNews called Lt. Col. Arsenio Sadural, commanding officer of 30th Infantry Battalion based in Bad-as, Placer, Surigao del Norte but he failed to answer the call.
Sadural also did not reply to a text on the alleged presence of troops in the mountains around Surigao del Norte.
Bishop Rhee Timbang, of the Philippine Independent Church in Surigao del Norte said his group also called on the military higher-ups for a troop pullout.
Timbang heads the third party facilitators that successfully negotiated for the release of four policemen abducted by the NPA also in Alegria town in July last year.
“We made this call since the military itself admitted its continued presence in mountain communities for its Community Organizing for Peace and Development program,” he said.
Minutes after he said this, a military official from of the 4th Infantry Division called the bishop via his mobile phone to assure there would be no movements of troops.
The bishop responded that he and his group would look into it.
Other personalities also called for a troop pullout in the area for the safe release of the captives.
Former Surigao del Norte provincial board member Atty. Victor Bernal said had the military suspended their operations and had the Provincial Crisis Management Committee acted decisively, the captives would have been long released.
“In short, the Provincial Crisis Management Committee and the military which is always pursuing the captors are the ones who don’t want the release [of the captives]. If possible, Governor [Sol] Matugas should ask the Philippine Army in Bad-as to stop the military operations,” Bernal said in Cebuano.
He urged Matugas to convene the committee to convince the military to stop their operations.
The governor did not reply when asked by MindaNews through text to comment on Bernal’s statements. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)