NPA releases soldier, cop
COMPOSTELA VALLEY, Philippines - In a simple ceremony somewhere in the mountains of Laak town, heavily armed guerrilla fighters who are members of the communist New People's Army released a soldier and a cop held as "prisoners of war" for more than a month.
PO1 Ruel Pasion of Compostela Valley police and Private First Class Jezreel Culango of the 60th Infantry Battalion were separately captured in a checkpoint manned by rebels in the same town last January 17.
A leader of the custodial unit of the NPA said the investigation conducted by the revolutionary court has not seen sufficient evidence to prosecute both for serious crimes against the people.
"The release of Pasion and Culango is also in accordance to the standing policy of the NPA on lenient treatment on prisoners of war," the NPA leader said.
The NPA added that the release also satisfies the appeals of the relatives of the captives.
"The order of release is an act in the exercise of the political power and authority of the People's Democratic Government and is done on humanitarian grounds," the NPA said.
The National Democratic Front declared a 4-day unilateral ceasefire in Compostela Valley and in Davao del Norte to facilitate the release while urging the government to do the same.
The parents of Culango and the wife of Pasion joined the call for the declaration of a suspension of military operations.
But the government has not responded to the appeals.
After signing their release orders, both former NPA captives expressed their relief and their gratitude for their safe release.
"I am very thankful to the NPA for the fair treatment. We were provided with enough food and medicines. They treated us like their brothers," Pasion said.
Culango shared that they were not harmed even once by their captors.
Pasion and Culango were turned over to Sowing the Seeds of Peace, a group of church leaders who worked as the 3rd party facilitator for the release.
Arriving in a chopper, Davao City vice mayor Rodrigo Duterte volunteered to bring back Pasion and Culango to their respective headquarters.
"I am grateful to the NPA for obeying the rules of the Geneva Convention and for their fair treatment to the prisoners. Congratulations to the NPA for the safe release," Duterte said.
Pasion and Culango commented that they would have significant changes in their conduct of duty if ever they would be given the chance to continue their government service.
"We will treat people with dignity and equally. We also should not do harm to others," Pasion said.
Pasion shared his realization that, like the objective of the police, the rebels are also fighting for the interest of the poor.
Culango also commented that he admires the NPA for its practices.
"The NPA are very organized. And they take care of each other. The problem of one is the problem of everyone," Culango said.
However, both commented that they are determined to go back in their jobs in the security forces of the country.
"We will do our jobs. But we will not wish to encounter our captors in the field. Who would want that anyway? We all want peace," Culango said.
The Sowing the Seeds of Peace said they appreciated the efforts of all those who helped to materialize the release of Pasion and Culango.
But the group said the government and the NDF must immediately go back to the negotiating table to achieve genuine peace in the country.
"In the talks, the root causes of this conflict will be identified and will be given appropriate solutions including significant socio-economic reforms," the Sowing the Seeds of Peace said.
Duterte also joined the call adding that the resumption of the talks is already long overdue.
End of ordeal
Exchanging handshakes, both captives and captors said their goodbyes to each other.
"I am already excited to be with my family," Pasion said.
Culango said he is also thrilled to be united with his parents and his girlfriend.
As the NPA guerrillas marched in a single row towards their main base, Pasion and Culango, with nervous smiles, hopped onto the chopper with Duterte.
They are back in the city but the conflict in the countrysides between the government and the communists rages on. - Rappler.com