Sunday, December 28, 2008

NPA rebels free captured army commander

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Dec. 28, 2008) – Communist rebels on Sunday said they would free a Filipino army commander held captive since last month in the southern Philippines.

The New People’s Army said it decided to free First Lieutenant Vicente Cammayo as an act of goodwill.

Cammayo was captured Nov. 7 after rebel forces attacked his unit and killed two soldiers and a government militia in a fierce firefight in Casoon village in the town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley province.

The rebels also seized an M60 machine gun and two M16 and one M14 automatic rifles from Cammayo's unit during the fighting.

The rebels earlier freed a captured policeman Eduardo Tumol, who was also seized Nov. 5 at a checkpoint in the village of Baogo in Davao Oriental's Caraga town.

“POW Cammayo's release is an act of goodwill on account of the continuing celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The decision is also anchored on humanitarian grounds,” Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

The rebels celebrated its anniversary on Friday.

Sanchez said Cammayo, commander of the 11th Company of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces, would be released next week. But he warned that the NPA could suspend the release of Cammayo if military forces continue its operations that would endanger the safety of the prisoner.

“The implementation of the order of release shall be based on the NPA custodial unit's assessment of the ground situation particularly the movement of AFP troops. The NPA custodial unit has the authority to suspend the release of POW Cammayo if enemy movement continues since the safety of the said prisoner of war and the receiving party is of utmost importance,” he said.

Sanchez previously said that both Tumol and Cammayo were investigated for possible human rights violations and other crimes related to the operations of the Special Forces and the Provincial Mobile Group in Mindanao.

Aris Francisco, spokesman of the NPA's Alejandro Lanaja Command, accused the 3rd Special Forces Battalion to which Cammayo's unit belongs, as responsible for the series of violations to human rights, protocols of war and international humanitarian law in Compostela Valley province.

He accused the Special Forces of masterminding the June bombing in Nabunturan town that wounded several innocent civilians. The NPA also tagged Special Forces members as behind the brutal murder in June of a peasant leader Noli Llanos in Nabunturan's Mipangi village, where rebels killed three government soldiers; and also the killing of farmer Diego Encarnacion in the village of Linda in Nabunturan town in July. Both farmers were accused by the military as NPA supporters.

The military denied all accusations and branded them as propaganda.

The NPA, armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting the government the past four decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement ending hostilities in the countryside. (Mindanao Examiner)

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