NPA to free 15 gov’t troops—NDF Northeastern Mindanao
DAVAO CITY – Maoist guerrillas are now preparing the release of 15 captured government forces, including two Special Forces soldiers, in Northeastern Mindanao, a senior communist leader said.
Maria Malaya, the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Northeastern Mindanao Region, said in a statement on Thursday, that the New People’s Army (NPA) was just waiting for a favorable timing for the release, including a temporary halt in fighting.
“The plan, however, is hampered by the continuous military operations launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the utter disregard of AFP officials and the Government of the Philippines (GRP) for the welfare of their troops captured by the NPA,” Malaya said.
The NPA captured the Special Forces soldiers and 13 Civilian Active Auxiliary militias in two separate operations late last year.
Two soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion and 13 militiamen were captured during an attack in a military detachment in Barangay New Tubigon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur on December 19.
The rebels also took 23 firearms including 16 M16 rifles, three M14 rifles, an M60 machinegun, two M4 rifles, and a handgun. The NPA also took at least 7,000 rounds of different ammunition, a Harris radio, and other war equipment.
Another government militia was captured in an ambush in the town of Remedios T. Romualdez in Agusan del Norte on November 29. The same attack reportedly resulted in the death of a soldier and two militias.
The NPA also seized four rifles from the attack, Malaya said.
Malaya said the captured government forces were considered “prisoners of war” and were treated fairly by their captors.
“The POWs are currently under the custody of the appointed Custodial Forces of the NPA who are ensuring their safety, need and welfare,” she said. “Their human rights are guaranteed and they are being treated well as prisoners of war in accordance to the policies of the New People’s Army (NPA) and People’s Democratic Government (PDR) and the provisions enshrined in the CARHRIHL and in international protocols of war,” Malaya said.
The military, however, condemned the “terror” act, saying the captured soldiers were held as hostages by the communist guerrillas.
Malaya said the military had responded with a massive operation that stretched for 25 days in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur.
“Since the last week of December 2018 until the present, AFP troops incurred several casualties from six counter-attacks launched by the NPA,” Malaya said.
Malaya said creating a safe condition could ensure the release of the captured government forces despite the ongoing fightings on the ground.
She urged families of the captured soldiers and militias to help demand from President Duterte the facilitation of the release through the Suspension of Military Operations and Suspension of Police Operations.
Before he won the presidency, Duterte used to facilitate the release of NPA captives in Mindanao.
“We also call upon the officials of Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte and the chairperson of the Regional Peace and Order Council to create conditions to ensure the safe and smooth release of the POWs. We challenge the politicians advocating genuine peace to help ensure this,” Malaya said. /lzb
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