SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/13 December) – A military official blamed the New People’s Army (NPA) for the aborted release of two policemen being held by the rebel group in Surigao del Norte.
“The communist terrorists should be blamed why the two abducted cops from Placer Surigao del Norte are still held captive until now and supposedly spending time with their family if they were not abducted in the first place,” said Lt. Col Xerxes A. Trinidad, battalion commander of the 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) in a press statement Wednesday.
Since early this year, the 36th IB has placed Bacuag, Gigaquit and Claver towns in Surigao del Norte under their area of responsibility. These towns used to be under the area of the 30th IB.
“The AFP has no authority to declare a SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations), more so the 36IB. We are following the chain of command, unless there is a directive from the President declaring a SOMO, the 36IB will not stop in pursuing the abductors and rescue the two cops. Also, we will be relentless in conducting Security Operations to perform our mandate in securing the land and serving the Filipino people,” Trinidad said.
The Army official was reacting to the decision of the National Democratic Front-Northeastern Mindanao calling off the scheduled release of the two police officers they abducted in Placer town in Surigao del Norte early last month, citing the military’s refusal to suspend operations to facilitate the captives’ safe return to their loved ones.
Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of NDF-NEMR, said in an emailed statement that PO2 Jhon Paul M. Doverte and PO2 Alfredo L. Degamon were supposed to be released on Dec. 5 as part of the NDF’s gesture of peace and in response to the ardent request of their families to be reunited with them this Christmas.
NPA guerrillas wearing vests and uniforms of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group snatched Doverte and Degamon on Nov. 13 at a police outpost in Barangay Bad-as, Placer.
Malaya said they decided to cancel the scheduled release of the two policemen after the military refused to heed the Third Party Facilitator’s call for them to stand down.
“All units of military and police force should stand down for six days in six towns of the province to pave way for the safe release but the military failed to do so as they continued its military operations,” Malaya said.
“Apparently, Ka Maria Malaya, as part of the terrorist organization, is twisting the blame to the AFP where in fact they’re the ones who perpetrated the abduction. If they are really sincere, they can anytime release the cops anywhere,” said Captain Francisco P Garello Jr., civil military operations officer of the 36th IB .
“This is clearly a dubious scheme of the communist-terrorists to ease the pressure as their cohorts in the mountains have already felt the hardships without food and continuously evading the pursuing troops,” Garello added. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)