By EARL O. CONDEZA
Paquibato District, Davao City – “Kami sa gobyerno, dili mi dapat magsarado tanan, magbilin kag bisan gamay nga abli sa bintana nga makig-istorya ta ining mga komunista. (We at government can’t close our doors. I still leave an open window to talk with the communists.)”
Thus, said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte during the turn-over ceremony by the New People’s Army (NPA) of five soldiers who were kept under its custody as “Prisoners of War” Wednesday.
“Kay kung ato ning sirad-an tanan, unsa na lay mahitabo sa atoa? Mabungol ta sa binuthanay. Tuo mo nako dili ni mahuman sa gyera.(If we close everything, what will happen to us? Our ears will bleed from the sound of firearms. Believe me, this will not end through war),” he said.
Duterte accompanied the families of Corporal Emmanuel Quezon (Serial No. 827510), Pfc. Vernie Padilla (SN 898234), Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas (SN 901766), Pfc. Ronald Gura (SN 898248) and Pfc. Donato Estandian (SN 893670). The five troops belonging to the 60th Infantry Battalion were captured by the NPAs 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion on June 17 in its checkpoint in Bangkaan, Paquibato District.
Duterte later brought the five soldiers out of Paquibato by helicopter to the Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters, this city.
“Special treatment ug tarong ilang tinagdan sa amoa. Wala mi gipasakitan, bisan kusi (We were given special treatment and consideration. We were not hurt, not even a pinch),” said Corporal Emmanuel Quezon, one of the five soldiers.
The International Committee of the Red Cross checked the condition of the five.
Their capture, ironically, came at a time when the Armed Forces’1003rd Brigade declared that the NPA’s Front Committee 52 in Paquibato was dismantled through its peace and development team.
“Gidakop namo sila tungod sa ilang operasyon, sa ilang pagdaug-daug sa masa, (We captured them during their operations, and their oppression of the masses,” said Ka Parago, the NPA 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion spokesperson.
He added that they investigated the five soldiers for reported human rights violations in their conduct of counter-insurgency campaign against the residents of Paquibato.
Parago is known for capturing the highest military official in the country, Brig. Gen. Victor Obillo back in 1999. The Commanding general of the 55th Engineering Brigade was held as prisoner of war along with Capt. Eduardo Montealto for two months before they were released through a negotiated settlement brokered by few national and local leaders.
Parago said they released the five POWs Wednesday in response to appeals from the families and peace advocates.
“Dili pasabot nga release na sila karon, kay malingkawas na sila (But their release doesn’t mean they are absolved),” warns Parago, “Kung makasala na pod sila, kung nay reklamo ang masa, taralon o nay laing aksyon. (If they commit the same offense which the people complain, they will be tried again or face a different sanction.)”
The soldiers’ release order came from the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao.
In its Release Order read during the turn-over ceremony, NDF spokesperson Rubi del Mundo said “there was no sufficient evidence to continue the process of investigating them for serious crimes against the people and the revolutionary movement.” The order also cited the policy of lenient treatment, observance of international protocols on handling prisoners of war, and assertion of “political authority” as among the considerations for the release.
With the release of the soldiers, Ka Parago tells government, “Naa lang koy ipa-apas gamay ngadto sa gobyerno. Kung mahimo ang mga masa dili pasakitan. Kung naa silay madakpan nga sibilyan, iagi og hustisya. (My appeal for the government is not to hurt the masses. If they capture a civilian they should go through due process.)”
Duterte thanked the guerrillas for observing protocols in treating the soldiers in the course of their capture.
“I’m mayor for everyone. I’m mayor for the NPA. I’m mayor for the military in my jurisdiction. I’m mayor for the poor and the rich,” he said during the ceremony.
Duterte reiterated his stance for the government to continue peace talks with the NDF. Malacanang called off the talks early this year.
“This war has gone on for (more than) 30 years; it can’t go on like this. Believe me,” Duterte said.
But the mayor frowned on suggestions for localized peace talks.
“This NPA, they are one unit, you have to talk to (NDF peace panel chair Luis) Jalandoni and (NDF peace adviser Joma) Sison. Let me tell this government that (the NDF) have their jurisdiction just as we do. We can do something here at the local level, but with localized peace talks nothing can happen. Nothing will happen because the structure itself is there and you have to follow the line of authority. Just as we do in the national government,” he said. (Earl O. Condeza , davaotoday.com)Ka Parago, mayor rody duterte, NDF, NPA, Peace Process, peace talks