DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The New People’s Army (NPA) in Northern Mindanao has deferred the release of the alleged 16 prisoners of war due to the intensified joint offensive operations by the police and the military, an NPA spokesperson said.
Ka Sandra Sidlakan, spokesperson of NPA Guerilla Front 21 North Eastern Mindanao Region, in a Radyo ni Juan interview aired on Jan. 2, said they weren’t able to push through with the release of POWs during the holiday season because of the military and police continued operations.
Sidlakan said for them to release the POWs, government forces should implement SOMO and SOPO.
“There need to have a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) in order for a formal release of the prisoners of war with the help of a third-party facilitator,” Sidlakan said.
The communist rebels captured 14 Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members and two soldiers belonging to the Army’s 3rdSpecial Forces Battalion during a raid in a CAFGU detachment in New Tubigon, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur early morning on Dec.19.
The NPAs also seized high powered firearms from the detachment.
Sidlakan said that all POWs were treated well while they were in their custody. The communist rebels urged the families of the POWs and the public to urge the military to temporarily suspend their operations for the POWs’ safe release.
However, Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, division commander of Army’s 4th Infantry Division already rejected negotiations with the NPA for the release.
Villanueva expressed frustration over the incident, saying that he wants the captured troops to be discharged from the service.
Initial investigation revealed that all troops in the detachment were sleeping when the NPA raid happened.
Villanueva earlier said in a local radio station that they will no longer conduct rescue operations for the captured soldiers and militiamen, and leave their fate to the NPA.
Meanwhile, two members of NPA were reportedly killed in an encounter in Agusan del Sur on Monday.
According to Lt. Col. Ronald Illana, commander of 8th Infantry Battalion AFP, several other NPA members were believed to be wounded in an encounter in Sitio Kinu-aw, Barangay Binicilan, San Luis at 11:25 a.m on the same day.(davaotoday.com)