Governor turned off by Roxas’ handling of cops’ release by NPA
SURIGAO CITY, Philippines—While he did score “pogi” or “brownie” points for securing the release of four policemen abducted by communist insurgents last month, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas may have lost a local ally in the process.
Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas said she was “hurt and frustrated” by the way Roxas handled the police officers’ July 29 release, which occurred in the neighboring Agusan del Norte province and was supervised by local officials there.
“What I regretted is the action of the national [government] to take over [the negotiations], as if we din’t know what we were doing… there’s so much to learn on the ground that the national [government] doesn’t know,” Matugas told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
Matugas headed the provincial crisis team that initially negotiated with rebels for the freedom of the police officers, who were captured when New People’s Army rebels raided the police station in the town of Alegria in Surigao del Norte on July 10.
The local negotiations, however, broke down, prompting the rebels to withdraw from the talks and indefinitely cancel the planned release of their “prisoners of war.” The NPA said Matugas was warmongering after she rejected their six-day ceasefire proposal.
Roxas got involved when he agreed to a five-day ceasefire—just one day short of the time demanded by the rebels within which to transport and release their prisoners, but substantially longer than the 72-hour truce that the local crisis team had insisted on.
Matugas said she felt deceived because Roxas and his team had indicated that the turnover of the prisoners would happen in a location within the province— particularly Alegria, where the attack took place.
She said she was taken aback when, at the last minute, Roxas informed her that the release would take place in Kitcharao in the adjacent province of Agusan del Norte.
“I told him (Roxas) I can’t come to Kitcharao because it is outside of my province,” she said. Instead, the governor said, she waited in Alegria where she expected Roxas to formally turn over the released policemen top her, she “being the governor.”
When it was apparent that no turnover would happen, as Roxas and his entourage rushed to catch the afternoon flight to Manila, Matugas said she left Alegria “hurt, frustrated… and feeling sorry for myself.”
She characterized the incident as a form of “disrespect.”
Asked whether this would affect her family’s affiliation with the Liberal Party, the governor said she did not care about the party “but the person” leading the party, an allusion to her bad experience with the DILG chief.
Will she still support Roxas as LP standard bearer in 2016? “Only time will tell,” answered Matugas, the LP chairwoman in the province.
The governor’s husband, Francisco, is an incumbent congressman representing one of the province’s two legislative districts, while her brother in law, Ernesto, is on his second-term as mayor of Surigao City.
Before they switched parties in 2010, the Matugases were allied with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi.
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