Reds abort scheduled release of cops as Army rejects ceasefire
SURIGAO CITY, Philippines – Communist rebels had aborted, for the third time, the scheduled release of the three police officers, whom they had captured in separate instances in Surigao del Norte in November 2014.
Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Northeastern Mindanao (NDF-NEMR), said in an e-mailed statement that PO1 Jorie Amper, PO3 Democrito Polvosa and PO1 Marichel Contemplo were supposed to be released on January 18 as part of the NDF’s “gesture of peace during the Papal visit and in response to the ardent request of the family to be reunited with their loved ones.”
Amper, who was assigned with the Malimono town police’s intelligence section, was taken captive at a roadblock manned by New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay (village) Tinago of Malimono, on Nov. 12, as he was heading for an assignment.
Polvorosa and Contemplo were taken hostage on Nov. 16 while on their way to a humanitarian mission that the Department of Social Welfare and Development was conducting in Alegria town.
Malaya said as in previous planned releases, the decision to cancel the scheduled release of the three policemen were due to the military’s refusal to heed the NDF’s call for a temporary truce.
Jorge Madlos, NDF Mindanao spokesperson, also blamed Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol Matugas for allegedly failing to immediately act on the crisis during its early stage.
It was learned that Matugas was abroad in December.
Lawyer Victor Bernal, a member of the third-party facilitator, said Matugas’ “conspicuous absence was gravely insensitive and reminiscent of the way she handled the previous negotiations.”
In July, Matugas angered the NPA when she refused a longer truce so that four NPA “prisoners of war” could be released. The NPA declined to further talked with her and had forged a deal instead with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.
Later, Matugas lashed out at Roxas and hinted her family would not support the latter in the 2016 elections.
Malaya said high-level talks between the NDF and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) were held earlier this week and it was agreed that Amper, Polvorosa and Contemplo would be released on Sunday.
But she said the Army had refused to temporarily pull out its troops from possible areas of releases. Also, the Army continued with its Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) activities —particularly in the town of Gigaquit, she added.
“Having been informed of this, the NDFP-NEMR deemed it necessary to call off the release and ordered the NPA Custodial Force to relocate to a safer place,” she said.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.