Reds free police captives
SURIGAO CITY—Communist guerillas in Mindanao released their remaining captives as promised Saturday in a goodwill gesture following the successful end of initial peace talks that wrapped up the day before in Oslo, Norway.
About 5,000 people from different towns of Surigao del Norte came to witness the release of PO2 Caleb Sinaca, PO3 Jayroll Bagayas, SPO3 Santiago Lamanilao and civilian police employee Rodrigo Angub, who were turned over to their relatives in a day-long event in a mountainous area overlooking the city.
The four were tearfully reunited with their families, more than a month after they were seized by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs and gambling. Doctors examined the freed captives, who were declared to be in good health.
The NPA said it decided to call off its investigations as a “gesture of goodwill” after the talks wrapped up in Norway Friday, with both sides agreeing to extend a truce indefinitely and explore the possibility the government would free more detained guerrillas.
“We were never maltreated and in fact we were attended well,” Lamanilao said, as he expressed his gratitude to the NPA custodial force led by Ka Lucas.
On Friday, the NPA released three police officers, led by Chief Insp. Arnold Ongachen, who was seized on May 29 and accused of involvement in the illegal drugs trade in his town.
Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commanding officer of the 10th Infantry Division, welcomed Saturday’s releases and said he hoped the peace talks would finally end the over four-decades-long communist insurgency in the country.
“We [also] welcomed the declaration of the ceasefire,” Valencia said, “We’re supporting the peace initiatives of President Duterte. We are hoping the ceasefire would hold just like we experienced in the talks with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) when the ceasefire contributed to the success of the talks.”
Troops have been ordered restricted to camps except for those engaged in outreach programs, Valencia said.
Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Command, said the releases were a “gesture of goodwill on the part of the revolutionary movement,” expressing their optimism for the resumption of the peace talks.
However, he pressed for the further release of some 500 “political prisoners” still languishing in jail. Chris Panganiban, with a report from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao/TVJ/rga
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