DAVAO CITY – The National Democratic Front said it cancelled the release of its three police captives because of the presence of Army forces in the area for release.

Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the NDF-Northeast Mindanao, said they cancelled the release of “prisoners of war (POW)”Police Officer 1 (PO1) Jorie M. Amper, PO3 Democrito B. Polvorosa, and PO1 Marichel U. Contemplo “due chiefly to the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) refusal to temporarily withdraw their COPD (Community Outreach for Peace and Development operatives from the area.”

Malaya said they “requested that AFP units conducting COPD operations in Barangays Sico-sico and Camam-onan, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte to temporarily withdraw to their base camp in Barangay Mahanub, even as the personnel of the Barangay Sico-sico detachment remain in place”.

She said the NDF “deemed it necessary, because despite negotiations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Ponce, head of the Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, refused to meet this request”.

Last week, the NDF declared a “supplemental”, or extended,13-day ceasefire after the Christmas truce, to accommodate the time of release.

She said the Army presence “seriously endangered not only the lives of the three POWs but of their family and loved ones and others who wish to attend their actual release.”

The pullout of troops was already aired on early January by the “third party” facilitating the release of the three police captives. The pullout should include military troops involved in civic-military operations in the province of Surigao del Norte.

“We appeal to the military higher-ups to pullout their troops and any military presence from the province of Surigao del Norte, including their fully-armed Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) teams,” said Bishop Rhee Timbang in an emailed statement.

Timbang heads the Third Party Facilitators.

Timbang said “it is the military themselves who said in their statements that the COPD is part of their counter-insurgency program under Oplan (Operational Plan) Bayanihan.”

Timbang said that while the government issued a ceasefire declaration since December 18, the Army did not pull out its fully-armed COPD teams from the countrysides.

The NPA captured Amper in Malimono, Surigao del Norte last November 12 while Polvorosa, Jr and Unclara was captured last November 16 in Alegria.

The three are the last of nine members of the police and military held as prisoners-of-war (POW) by the NPA in Mindanao last December.

NDF-Mindanao Spokesperson, Ka Oris. said “all investigations related to the POWs were terminated and they have no current grave records against the revolutionary movement.”

Ka Oris said the release of all POWs is their “gesture of good will for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the NDF and government.”

Timbang, who said that one of the relatives of PO1 Amper was also a member of their church, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, called on the provincial government to “take charge and show its genuine concern to the welfare of the police officers and their families.”

Timbang said “the provincial government merely adopted recommendations from the municipal governments of Alegria and Malimono but don’t have its own calls on the matter.”

He said said that Gov. Sol Matugas “should assert her authority over the military command in the province and give what is being asked (by the NPA)”.

The Third Party facilitators also successfully facilitated the release of four police officers last August after reaching to the national government for a solution.

Timbang said that they “will go for that option if we could not get any help from the governor and her crisis committee to influence the military to pullout.” (davaotoday.com)

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