DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The New People’s Army has finally freed a police officer they held captive for seven months.
Inspector Menardo Cui, deputy police chief of Pres. Roxas Municipal PNP, was released on Friday, July 27, in a rural village located at the boundary of Davao City and Magpet town, North Cotabato.
Cui was taken as prisoner of war by the Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command NPA Front 53 on December 28 last year in Barangay Poblacion, Pres. Roxas town, North Cotabato.
Cui was endorsed to government officials around 12:30 pm today as well as to Bishop Hamuel Tequis, Rev. Jurie Jaime, and Bishop Jonathan Casimina, of Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP), a peace advocate group which acted as the third party facilitator.
The officials present were Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Magpet Mayor Florentino Gonzaga, and Kidapawan City Councilor Ruby Padilla-Sison.
Also present were members of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the People’s Peace Network, a group composed of church, civil societies, and local government units in North Cotabato.
In early January, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command (NPA-SMROC) released a video of Cui, saying he was being treated well.
In the video, he appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to resume peace talks with the communists. He also requested the Armed Forces of the Philippines to suspend its operations to make way for his safe release.
A month after Cui’s arrest, his wife died of cancer.
Ka Tris, spokesperson of the NPA’s 2nd Pulang Bagani Company, said they informed Cui about the death of his wife and let him communicate with his family.
Ka Tris added that they would have released Cui sooner had it not been for the Army and police’s refusal to suspend its operations.
According to the release order signed by Rubi Del Mundo, representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao region, Cui has investigated by the responsible unit and “sufficient evidence has been established to warrant his prosecution for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement.”
“However,” it added, Cui’s “acts and conduct while under the detention and during the investigation and judicial proceedings have been observed as exhibiting remorse for his offenses.”
Del Mundo also said that the Order of Release is the NDFP’s “favorable response to widespread appeals of the Prisoner’s family and relatives and well-meaning parties and individuals who have expressed support for the negotiated settlement on the issue of POW within the purview of the CARHRIHL and the Geneva Conventions and Protocol 1.”
Cui was received by his older brother.
The peace negotiation between the government and the NDFP faced uncertainty anew after the government postponed the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway on June 28-30 saying it would review its position and conduct consultations with stakeholders.
Amidst the setbacks, the NDFP said the release of Cui was carried out as a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the peace talks.
In his speech during the ceremony, Cui thanked the NPAs for their fair treatment.
“Sa 209 ka adlaw nako sa hukbo nagtamod sila sa ilang ika-walo na punto na dili dagmalan ang POW. Bisan kusi, sigaan ko og mata, wala ko nakatilaw. Tanang pagkaon na akong gi-hanyo, tagaan… biste, akong suoton, tanan. Ginakab-an kog tubig, ligo, sila pa ang maglaba sa akong sanina. Sa custodial, daghan kaayong salamat kauban dira ang medic na nag atiman sa akoa,” said Cui.
(Within the 209 days with the NPA, I can say they really adhere to their eighth point of discipline: Do not mistreat prisoners. I did not receive any pinch nor a glare. They have provided me with food, clothes, everything. They even fetch water for me and they wash my clothes. I thank the custodial unit including the medic who took care of me.)
He also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“Balik kita sa negotiating table. Mag storya ta og kalinaw sa Mindanao, sa Pilipinas, aron walay kamatayon na magmadaugon kanato (Let’s go back to the negotiating table. Let’s talk about peace in Mindanao, in our country, so that death will not prevail in our land),” Cui added.
SAP Chistopher Go, in his speech, said he would relay the church leaders and Cui’s call to President Rodrigo Duterte on the resumption of peace talks.
Go added that the government is still “open for another chance” to return to the negotiating table as long as the other party adheres to the conditions set by the government including return of CPP Founding Chair Jose Maria Sison in the Philippines for the talk.
He also said that local government units may engage to a localized peace talks with the communist rebels operating within their area of responsibility, with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as the lead agency.
NPA’s Ka Tris said the localized peace talks would not address the root causes of the armed conflict in the country, saying the issues that need to be addressed are of national character.
“Localized peace talks cannot solve the root cause of the conflict which is severe poverty among the Filipinos. It should be resolved in the national level down to the local,” Ka Tris said.
Early this week, the ComVal-Davao East Coast Sub-Regional Command of the NPA in Southern Mindanao declared Private First Class Johannes Dolor Parreño of the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army assigned in Davao Oriental as a prisoner of war.
Parreño was arrested at a checkpoint mounted by the NPA in Sitio Mampising, Barangay Taguibo in Mati City on June 10. (davaotoday.com)