Gov’t agrees to limited ceasefire for release of cops captured by Reds
SURIGAO CITY, Philippines—The government and the National Democratic Front have agreed on a five-day ceasefire for the release of four policemen seized by communist rebels during an attack on a police station in the town of Alegria in Surigao del Norte on July 10, the provincial governor said Monday.
Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas said the agreement was reached between Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and the NDF.
Matugas said the ceasefire agreement will cover at least six Surigao del Norte towns to facilitate the safe release of PO3 Vic Calubag Concon, PO1 Rey O’niel Morales, PO1 Joen Zabala and PO1 Edito Roquino.
“On Saturday, July 26, the NDF informed Secretary Roxas through an emissary that the NPA units holding the four policemen are amenable to releasing their captives if government security forces will agree on a five-day ceasefire covering six towns in Surigao del Norte, namely, Placer, Bacuag, Tubod, Gigaquit, Alegria and Claver,” she said.
Under the agreement, the policemen will be released within the five-day ceasefire, which started on Sunday and will end at noon on August 1.
During this period, no military and police operations will be launched within the municipalities of Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Placer, Tubod and Alegria. The release is expected to take place in any of the six towns.
The five-day ceasefire was originally demanded by the NDF leadership in Mindanao under Jorge Madlos as a precondition for the release of the captives.
However, the Provincial Crisis Management Committee under Matugas rejected it. Instead, the committee announced extensions of the 24-hour ceasefire it first declared on July 21. This led the rebels to cancel the scheduled release of the policemen on July 23.
Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a member of the committee’s third-party negotiators, criticized Matugas’ handling of the negotiations, describing her as a “palengkera (fishmonger).”
Timbang sait it was beyond comprehension that the governor and her committee could not concede a five-day truce even when lives were at stake.
Infuriated by Timbang’s comments, which found their way to social media, Matugas removed the bishop from the negotiating team.
With the agreement between Roxas and the NDF now in effect, Matugas said the crisis team would pose “no objection.”
“Given these developments and in utmost regard of the overriding and paramount consideration on the life and security of the four captured policemen and the welfare of their respective families, the Provincial Crisis Management Committee poses no objection to a temporary ceasefire between government security forces and NPA units for five days,” she said.
Timbang described the new development as “another shot at hope.”
“We in the church group working for the spouses of the POWs (prisoners of war) ask the public to continue to pray and hope for the best of this new possibility of freedom of the four POWs and their eventual rejoining with their spouses and families,” he said.
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