GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) – The two Army troopers abducted by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last week in a hinterland village in Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat are reportedly in good condition and being treated as “prisoners of war,” a police official said on Friday.
Sr. Insp. Bernard Francia, chief of the Columbio municipal police station, said such information was based on a letter issued on Thursday to the town’s crisis management committee by the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Region Revolutionary Committee.
“They gave assurance that the two soldiers are in their custody and will not be hurt or killed,” he said.
Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and PFC Samuel Garay, both of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion (IB), were seized on Feb. 2 by rebels under the NPA’s Front 72 in Purok 7, Barangay Telafas in Columbio.
The two were on their way to their detachment aboard a motorcycle when they stopped and forcibly taken by around 20 heavily-armed rebels.
In its letter, Francia said the NPA noted that the two soldiers are currently being investigated for possible abuses and related violations.
But he said there are no reports of abuses or complaints against the two, who were previously involved in the peace and development activities of their unit in local communities in Columbio.
The police official expressed relief over the statement released by the NPA on the status of the abducted soldiers, who were earlier reported to have been executed by the rebels.
He said the assurance on the treatment of the two “prisoners of war” is a positive development and could open doors for possible negotiations on their release.
“Right now, the crisis management committee is still waiting for a response (from the NPA) regarding the proposed negotiations,” he said.
The town’s crisis committee, which is headed by Columbio Mayor Amir Musali, earlier sent negotiation feelers to the rebels.
Francia said they are hoping that the rebels will reciprocate the efforts made by the 39IB and the local government of Columbio in “saving the life” of one of their comrades who was wounded in an encounter in Sitio Lam-alis, Barangay Datal Blao on May 23, 2016.
He said the wounded NPA rebel was in critical condition then after being hit by a bullet in his spinal cord.
But through the initiative of the municipal government and the 39IB, the injured rebel received proper treatment and rehabilitation that cost “more than P500,000.”
The rebel has since recovered and is now able to walk, he added. (MindaNews)