NPA releases 5 soldiers through Duterte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) —In a short ceremony somewhere in the hinterlands of this city, the New People's Army (NPA) released 5 government soldiers through Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, July 31. The release ended their 45 days in captivity.
Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfc. Vernie Padilla, Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas, Pfc. Ronald Gura and Pfc. Donato Estandian were captured on June 17 at a checkpoint manned by NPA guerillas under the Pulang Bagani Battalion in Paquibato District. The rebels also seized at least 3 handguns and a grenade from them.
The turnover was made at 4:30 pm Wednesday. Aboard a helicopter, Duterte then brought the soldiers to Camp Panacan in this city, headquarters of the military's Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
"We were not hurt, not even a pinch. We were treated nicely and with special treatment," Quezon said during the short ceremony.
Leoncio "Kumander Parago" Pitao of the NPA's Pulang Bagani Battalion said they abducted the soldiers since they participated in anti-people activities including harassment. But the NPA decided to release them following appeals from their families and peace advocates, Pitao added.
"We granted the release for humanitarian reasons and in response to the appeals of their parents and relatives," Pitao said.
Duterte thanked the NPA for respecting protocol in the handling of prisoners of war.
Capt Severino David, Eastmincom spokesman, said the soldiers are now in the hospital for a check-up.
Duterte told reporters the government must keep its lines open for peace negotiations with the rebels. "A window for talks must always remain open," Duterte said. The current peace negotiations between both sides have been suspended, and some government officials have proposed the idea of initiating local peace talks in certain areas.
Duterte warned though that this won't succeed. "Like the government, the communists have also jurisdictions," he said. "They have to talk to everybody. The NPA is just a single organ. The government must still talk to [Luis] Jalandoni and [Jose Maria] Sison," Duterte added. — Rappler.com