NPA frees ComVal jail warden, hands him over to Duterte
TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte, Philippines – Communist guerrillas on Monday freed the provincial jail warden of Compostela Valley almost a month after his abduction.
Jose Mervin Coquilla was fetched by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte after he was handed over by his New People’s Army captors in the hinterlands of Compostela Valley past 2 p.m., Tagum City councilor Agripino Coquilla, the warden’s older brother, said.
“He is with Mayor Duterte here now at the provincial capitol (in Nabunturan town). Of course, we’re very elated and relieved that he is now with us,” councilor Coquilla told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by mobile phone.
The warden’s release came days after Duterte, head of the Southern Mindanao regional peace and development council (RPOC) demanded that the jail official be freed within 72 hours, as the latter’s family and local authorities in Compostela Valley also sought the mayor’s help for the jail warden’s freedom.
His release happened as the government and the rebels were observing separately ceasefire in connection with the visit of Pope Francis in the country that ended on Monday.
Coquilla, who celebrated his 44th birthday in the hands of the NPA on Sunday, was abducted last Dec. 23 outside his house in Panabo City, Davao del Norte as he and wife Lijobeth were preparing to hear Mass.
The official who has been a jail officer for 16 years heads the Compostela Valley provincial rehabilitation center in Mankilam, Tagum City.
Among the facility’s 480-plus inmates are a handful of captured NPA leaders who are facing various criminal offenses.
Aris Francisco, an NPA subregional spokesperson, said Coquilla was arrested following complaints of corruption and illegal drug trade inside the jail facility, accusations his family and local authorities have vehemently denied.