3 cops still captives of NPA as Surigao Norte gov, AFP reject ceasefire, troop pullout
SURIGAO CITY, Philippines – The hardline stance taken by Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas and the military top brass has set back the scheduled release of three policemen who, for almost two months now, have been held captive by New People’s Army rebels.
Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, one of the third-party negotiators, said the refusal of Matugas and the military to give in to the rebel’s demand for a troop pullout and ceasefire were to be blamed for the “long overdue” release of the policemen.
Timbang, who with members of the negotiating team, met with the wives and relatives of the captives on Monday here, said the ball has been thrown into the court of Matugas, chair of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, and the military as the rebels have agreed to release its captives.
But judging from the pronouncements of Matugas and troop movements on the ground, Timbang said prospects for the release have become bleak.
“We already made a breakthrough for the release yet the governor and military are taking a hardline stance,” Timbang said.
On Monday, National Democratic Front Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos issued a statement saying the military and Matugas should get their act together or else the NPA would hold the captives further and subject them to revolutionary investigations.
Madlos said no release would ever take place if the military would refuse the NPA conditions.
“We had suspended our investigation against the Prisoners of War. The revolutionary movement has no other pre-conditions except for troop pullout and implementation of ceasefire,” Madlos said.
According to Madlos , the NDF leadership already signed last month an order granting the immediate release from its custody of PO1 Jonry Amper, PO3 Democrito Polvorosa and PO1 Marichel Contemplo.
The three were separately snatched by communist rebels on November 2 and 16 in 2014 in Malimo and Alegria towns.
However, heavy military presence and continued rescue attempts in five towns where the release was supposed to take place led the rebels to cancel the scheduled release on December 23 .
Matosalem, wife of Polvorosa, aired her appeal to Matugas to concede and not to allow the military to dictate the negotiations, saying the safety and lives of her husband and that of other captives were at stake.
“Please don’t prolong our agony. I cant wait to see my husband again,” she said, sobbing in tears while being shown a three-minute video clip of her husband under rebel custody.
Timbang said he and the members of the negotiating team were not losing hope the government would change its mind and break the deadlock.
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