NPA to free 2 captive cops in Surigao Norte

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Dec) – Communist rebels have agreed to release on Wednesday the two police officers they captured early last month in Placer town in Surigao del Norte.

“As a goodwill gesture to promote the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and as a response to the appeals of the families of the Prisoners of War (POWs), the NDFP is releasing the two POWs recently taken into custody by the New People’s Army,” said Ka Oto, spokesperson of the NPA’S Guerilla Front 16.

NPA guerrillas posing as policemen wearing vests and uniforms of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group snatched PO2 Jhon Paul M. Doverte and PO2 Alfredo L. Degamon at a police outpost in Barangay Bad-as in Placer. The two belong to the Placer Municipal Police Station.

Ka Oto said the military has agreed to the call of the third party facilitator that there will be a stand-down of both opposing forces in the towns of Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag and Placer, all in Surigao del Norte. The stand-down reportedly started Monday until Thursday.

“The NPA will stop tactical strikes which correspond with the military stand-down and suspension of police operations at the aforesaid area,” Ka Oto said, adding that they are hoping the military will be sincere “so there will be no clash and this will pave way for the safe release of the captive cops.”

Bishop Rhee Timbang, of the Independent Church of the Philippines-Diocese of Surigao, who is acting as third party lead convenor, confirmed the NPA’s announced release of the cops.

“Very true but details are yet kept from the public,” Timbang said Tuesday afternoon.

But spokesmen of the Army’s 30th Infantry Battalion and 36th Infantry Battalion did not confirm a military stand-down.

The two cops were supposed to be released last Dec. 5 but was canceled because the military did not heed the call for a stand-down, the NPA claimed.

Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the NDF in Northeastern Mindanao (NDF-NEMR), earlier said in an emailed statement that Doverte and 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.

Malaya said they decided to cancel the scheduled release after the military ignored the third party facilitator’s call for them to stand-down.

Lt. Col Xerxes A. Trinidad, 36IB commander, said they have no authority to declare a suspension of military operations. “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,” he added.

The policemen’s families, media, different civil society organizations, cause-oriented groups and peace advocates are expected to witness Wednesday’s release in an undisclosed location. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)