NPA frees ComVal provincial jail warden

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/19 January) — The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Southern Mindanao announced the release Monday of a jail warden being held by the New People’s Army since Dec. 23 last year.

In a statement, NDFP-SMR spokesperson Rubi del Mundo said the NPA- Comval-North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command released Jose Merven Coquilla on humanitarian grounds and to “help propel for the immediate resumption of the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-NDFP peace negotiations”.

The statement said “the NDFP-SMR has ordered the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command to carry out the safe and orderly release of Coquilla to be witnessed by Third Party facilitators, peace advocates, and the media”.

The statement said Coquilla’s “arrest” on Dec 23 in Panabo City followed complaints of “corrupt practices” and “cruel treatment and violence among inmates”, among others, at the Provincial Rehabilitation Center of Compostela Valley as warden since Sept. 18, 2000.

“The NDFP-SMR, however, suspended its judicial proceedings against Coquilla as a humanitarian act in response to the pleas of his family and representatives from the GPH and well-meaning individuals, and as a gesture of compassion and mercy—a message that is reverberating in the country with the recent visit of Pope Francis,” it said.

But del Mundo added they would still subject Coquilla to “future arrest and detention if the masses file new charges against him and if he is found to be unremorseful”.

Meanwhile, the unilateral ceasefire declarations issued by the government and the NDFP ended Monday, Jan. 19, the day Pope Francis left the country after a pastoral visit capped by a mass Sunday, which was attended by an estimated 6 million Catholics at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.

Leaders of various religious denominations have called on Pope Francis to “add his voice” to the clamor for the resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace talks.

In a statement dated January 18, Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana, chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said “injustices and social inequality are the roots of the armed conflict that the people wish to be resolved” through the peace talks.”

He appealed to the Pope to “add his voice in calling both parties to return to the negotiating table and honor previous agreements in attaining a just and lasting peace in our country.” (MindaNews)