NPA frees 3 Army soldiers, 1 militiaman in Agusan del Sur
SAN LUIS, Agusan del Sur — Communist rebels on Tuesday afternoon took a surprise move to free three Army soldiers and a militiaman in what was supposed to be an event in a remote village of Balit here where they were set to free two “prisoners of war” held captive for a month.
The New People’s Army had already issued the release order of Private First Class Diven Tawide and Private First Class Glenn Austria of the 23rd Infantry Battalion when Ka Omar Ibarra, custodial officer of the captives, surprised the crowd to announce that another soldier and a paramilitary cadre were to be released at the same time.
Corporal Jawad Awadi and militiaman Roy Perez, who were clad in civilian clothes, were roaming around the village when they were caught by the NPA rebels securing the vicinity of the venue. Ibarra said they decided to free Awadi and Perez in the last minute just as the signing of document for the release of the two POWs.
“Aside from releasing the two POWs, we will also turn over before you two other captives we held today,” Ibarra said. “That is how we are serious in following the process on their release (POWs).’
The release of the captives was worked out by third party facilitators led by church leaders from Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) and local government officials, coordinated with the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA.
But Ibarra lambasted the Philippine Army for not presenting to the public NPA commander Ka Joker and seven other civilians who were seized at a military checkpoint in neighboring Esperanza town.
Ibarra said Ka Joker was supposed to lead the POW turnover rites when he was arrested in the area still covered by the agreement on Suspension of Military Operation to pave the way for the smooth release of the rebels captives.
“Where is justice here? Where is democracy that the government soldiers espoused?” Ibarra laments.
Also present in the event were San Luis Mayor Ronaldo Corvera and Mayor Norberto Pagaspas of Buenavista, Agusan del Norte where the two Army POWs were captured in a surprise NPA checkpoint. SFM