DAVAO CITY – An alliance of church leaders called on the military’s 10th Infantry Division to cease its military operations to pave the way for the safe release of the four soldiers who were held captive by the New People’s Army (NPA) since last month.
Bishop Emeritus Constante Claro of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), a convenor of the Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), said past similar incidents have already proven that the New People’s Army’s (NPA’s) so-called prisoners of war (POW) were safely released preceded by suspension of military’s “rescue” operations.
EJP cited the previous case of 1Lt. Vicente Cammayo and Police Officer3 (PO3)Eduardo Tumol who were also held captive by the NPA last December 2008. “It was because of the popular clamor and the intercession of church personalities which worked for the suspension of military operations that 1Lt.Cammayo and PO3 Tumol were safely released,” Bishop Claro noted.
“Now, we are yet again calling for another suspension of military operations in Compostela Valley as it holds the key to the safe release of captives Corporals Marcial Bawagan and Ariel Asumo of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) detachment in Barangay Limbo, Maco; Corporal Eduardo Alcala, detachment commander in Barangay Anitapan, Mabini; and militiaman Victor Pitogo,” he said.
The four soldiers have been held captive since the first week of May. New People’s Army also claimed recently that the all-out offensive military operations stands as the biggest obstacle of early release.
“We believe that peace negotiations and not military offensives must be the order of the day. Military operations will only put the lives of the soldiers in danger, as well as the lives of the civilian populace,” Bishop Claro said.
“We hope that this government abandons the policy of all-out offensives against its purported enemies and instead resume the peace negotiations,” he said.
Exodus for Justice and Peace is a peace group formed by different church groups, lawyers, doctors and other professionals.
Bishop Constante Claro