NPA to release all POWs as Christmas 'gifts'

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – At least 8 soldiers and cops are set to be released by the New People's Army in Mindanao as a gesture of solidarity for the celebration of Christmas.

Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos, spokesman for Mindanao of the National Democratic Front, divulged that the National Executive Council of the NDF has already signed the release papers of 3 cops and a government militia in the towns of Malimono and Alegria in Surigao del Norte and in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur; 2 soldiers and another militia in Bukidnon; and 2 soldiers in New Corrella in Davao del Norte.

"These POWs will be released skipping trial from the People's Court of the People's Democratic Government for humanitarian considerations and as our solidarity for a peaceful celebration of Christmas," Madlos said.

Madlos explained that the release without any preconditions is also a message of sincerity to engage in the peace negotiations with the government to achieve genuine peace based on justice.

The communist leader also added that the release of the prisoners of war is also part of the celebration of the 46th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Friday, December 26.

And as the families of the captured government forces pray for their release before Christmas Eve, Madlos assured that all of the prisoners are in good physical condition and are being treated fairly in accordance to international laws.

"We are assuring the families of the POWs and the public that they are in good physical condition and their basic needs are being provided. Their rights as prisoners are being respected in accordance to the International Humanitarian Law and the Protocols of War," Madlos said.

Madlos added that all prisoners have cooperated with their custodial units during their entire stay with the communist guerrillas of the NPA.

"While the POWs are under the custody of the NPA, no one has exhibited any behavior that would put their lives into danger and that they have cooperated fully with the custodial unit of the NPA as prisoners," Madlos said.

Madlos appealed to the government to sincerely implemented the unilateral ceasefire declared from December 18 to January 19 to ensure the speedy and safe release of all security forces captured by the communist guerrillas.

Presently, peace advocates are calling on both the government and the NDF to resume the stalled negotiations that would address the root causes of the conflict that has lasted for more than 4 decades.

In the Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, both parties agreed to tackle substantive agendas including human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

In March 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The government and the NDF has already formulated their drafts for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) but has not made progress since the talks collapsed.

The NDF is asserting that the government should release political prisoners and NDF consultants that were captured by government forces as agreed upon by the previously signed agreements to jumpstart the stalled talks. – Rappler.com