By BicolToday.com Staff
20April2017 (Bicoltoday.com) – WITHOUT waiting for a copy of the announced Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) order from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the New People’s Army (NPA) released two of its prisoners of war (POWs) this morning in Matan-Ao, Davao del Sur to a third party facilitator and local government officials.
The AFP has issued SOMO for the release of two NPA POWs in Socsargen according to the government peace negotiator.
Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel member Hernani Braganza said the release of the POWs is likely to be held today, April 20, and will be facilitated by Cagayan de Oro Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and Sowing the Seeds of Peace convenor Felixberto Calang.
Braganza said he has been talking to concerned parties to effect the release, including Calang, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili yesterday, GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and the AFP since April 18 on the matter.
The NPA’s Front 74 Mt. Alip Command turned over Philippine Army’s Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Pfc. Samuel Garay to Rev. Redemeer Yañez, IFI of Koronadal and of the group Sowing the Seeds of Peace as well as Davao del Sur provincial administrator Marc Anthony Cagas.
The NPA reportedly held the turnover ceremony at Matan-Ao because it was not as militarized as Sultan Kudarat where Calocop and Garay were captured.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Far South Mindanao for its part said the release of the POWs was in accordance to the NPA’s commitment to comply with the Geneva Convention.
The NPA National Operations Command earlier complained it could not effect its announced release of five POWs because of the AFP and PNP’s refusal to suspend operations.
“Continuing offensive military and police operations in the Socsargen area have impeded the New People’s Army (NPA) from releasing two prisoners of war,” NPA spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, in an April 12 statement, said.
The NPA said it planned to turn over Calocop and Garay to the third party facilitator last April 11 but cancelled because continuing military and police operations put the safety of the POWs, their families and third party facilitators at risk.
“By ordering their troops to continue offensive operations, the officers of the AFP and PNP are exhibiting zero concern for the safety and welfare of their men who are in the custody of the NPA as well as for the third party facilitators who are helping arrange the release of the POWs,” Ka Oris stated.
He added that it is for the safety of the POWs that they are publicly turned over to the custody of third party facilitators who can serve to verify the treatment and respect of the rights of the POWs by the custodial unit in accordance with international conventions.
Without such facilitation by third party entities, the POWs can be subjected to violence and harm by the military or police or other groups who desperately aim to disparage the NPA.
The NPA urges the GRP to order its military and police forces to stand down and suspend offensive operations in the areas to be identified by third party facilitators in order to pave the way for the safe and orderly release and turnover of the POWs.
The POWs are soldiers of the 39th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army.
They were captured by the NPA in Columbia, Sultan Kudarat province last February 2.
The NPA is also set to to release three other POWs in Bukidnon and in the Caraga region. [BicolToday.com]