Cop remembers birthday with rebels

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PO3 RUBEN NOJAPA JR. (right) during his release to Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte by the New People’s Army in a rebel camp in Compostela Valley. KARLOS MANLUPIG / INQUIRER MINDANAO

MAWAB, Compostela Valley—Communist rebels sang a birthday song for P03 Ruben Nojapa Jr. when he celebrated his birthday on March 29 and shared food with him, including roasted chicken sent by his family.

A few days later, Nojapa was freed after the rebels captured him last March 18 at a roadblock in Nabunturan town.

Nojapa said he could not forget the birthday celebration he had with the rebels. He said he was treated well by his captors.

The policeman said he was not harmed. “Not even a pinch,” he said shortly after he was turned over in a remote area here to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and members of Sowing the Seeds of Peace, a peace advocacy group.

In a statement prior to Nojapa’s release, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Southern Mindanao, said rebels freed the policeman after an investigation showed he had not committed any so-called crimes against the people.

“I thank the Communist Party of the Philippines for looking at the case fairly and squarely,” said Mayor Duterte in a message during Nojapa’s release.

The NDF had announced the policeman’s release but it was delayed by continued military operations in Compostela Valley, according to the rebels.

Gertrudes, Nojapa’s wife, said what she feared most during the release was the possibility of a clash taking place just as rebels are freeing her husband.

She said when she learned that her husband had been taken by rebels, “I felt no fear because I know the rules of the NPA (New People’s Army) when it comes to handling prisoners.”

Gertrudes’ earlier appeal for a suspension in military operations to allow her husband’s release had been unheeded.

Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan, Compostela Valley police chief, said Nojapa was immediately reunited with his family after he was set free here.

Duterte fetched him in a helicopter and brought him to the regional police headquarters at Camp Catitipan in Davao City, said Cascolan.

Duterte said he wanted to “personally” turn over Nojapa to police in Davao City.

Before boarding the helicopter with Duterte, Nojapa said his captivity was a “life-changing” experience. When asked what his plans were, he said he is thinking of retiring from the police service early. Karlos Manlupig and Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao

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