NPA rebels release Bukidnon policeman
DAVAO CITY—Four days after it lost two members in a firefight in Davao Oriental province, the New People’s Army (NPA) on Thursday released in Bukidnon province a policeman it held captive for more than two months.
PO2 Gerome Anthony Natividad was released “unharmed and in fine shape” in Barangay Dominorog, Talakag town in Bukidnon on Thursday noon, said Bishop Felixberto Calang of Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who belonged to one of the groups who brokered the release.
Natividad was taken by communist rebels on Feb. 9 when the NPA set up a roadblock in Barangay Tikalaan in Talakag.
Earlier, the NPA said it would only release Natividad if the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police suspended their operations in Bukidnon.
The Army’s 4th Infantry Division initially refused but Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, head of the Regional Peace and Order Council, had convinced the military to order a stand-down of its troops for six days in the area where the release was to take place.
“We drew up a plan for the military stand-down three days prior and three days after the date of release to avoid an encounter between the NPA custodial force and government soldiers,” Moreno said.
Third-party facilitators turned Natividad over to Kalilangan town officials in Bukidnon. From there, he was taken to the Talakag town police office, his area of assignment before he was abducted.
2 rebels dead
His release came four days after two NPA rebels died in an attack on a military base in Cateel town, Davao Oriental. The camp in Sitio Odiongan in Aliwagwag village is near an ecotourism park featuring multitiered waterfalls that tourists visit.
Roel Agustin II, spokesperson of the NPA subregional command in Compostela Valley, said the NPA lost two fighters in the attack.
A soldier, he said, was also killed, but the military denied this.
Agustin said the NPA staged the attack to punish the troops of the 67th and 72nd Infantry Battalions for their supposed crimes against farmers and lumad in Davao Oriental.
He said the ecotourism program in Aliwagwag Falls had displaced hundreds of farmers and indigenous peoples.
Maj. General Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, assured that military and local officials were implementing measures to ensure the safety of visitors in Davao Oriental following the attack. —JIGGER JERUSALEM AND FRINSTON LIM
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