BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/17 January) – It looks like the release of three policemen from Surigao del Norte who are being held captive by the New People’s Army will be delayed further after the Caraga Regional Peace and Order Council refused to give in to the demand of the rebels for a troop pullout in the province.
Butuan City Mayor and RPOC chair Ferdinand Amante said the council will wait for instructions from President Benigno S. Aquino III regarding the demand by the NPA as a precondition to the release of the captives.
“We also have to consult the military and police on this matter,” Amante told reporters after the RPOC meeting held at the 402nd Infantry Brigade in Bancasi, Butuan City on Tuesday, Jan. 16.
The National Democratic Front said last week they are putting on hold the release of PO1 Democrito Bondoc Polvorosa and PO1 Marichel Unclara Contemplo of the Alegria Police Station, and PO1 Junrie Amper of the Malimono Police Station.
NDF Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said the military and the Surigao del Norte provincial crisis committee failed to reciprocate their unilateral ceasefire that would have set the release of the captive policemen.
Madlos alleged that military operations continued in Surigao del Norte despite the government’s declaration of suspension of military and police operations from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19, the last day of Pope Francis’ visit in the country.
Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division, denied Madlos’ allegations saying they are following strictly the instructions that no military operations would be conducted for a month in Surigao del Norte.
Lactao said he was surprised by the latest statement of the NDF since the release of two Army soldiers in Bukidnon last Dec. 26 did not require a pullout of their troops.
“Why don’t they just release the policemen? They can leave them anywhere to be picked up by the Surigao del Norte crisis committee,” he said.
Last Jan. 7, Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas wrote to 402nd Infantry Brigade chief Brig. Gen. Jonathan Ponce asking him to stop the Community Organizing for Peace and Development conducted by the Army in Surigao del Norte “in order to facilitate and expedite the release of the three police officers held by the NPA.”
Lactao said they have followed the instructions of Gov. Matugas. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)