DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 11, 2009) – Philippine communist rebels have freed a captured government soldier after nearly two weeks in captivity in Mindanao.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army (NPA), said Private First Class Ronnie Trinidad was freed on humanitarian grounds.
“The arrest, safe and orderly release of POW Trinidad amid the intense militarization in the countryside and the terrorism of the state against the people also indicates that Oplan Bantay Laya II of the criminal US-Arroyo regime is a big failure.”
“This, as the revolutionary forces continue to gain political and military headway against the fascist and most hated regime. The NPA has once again stood for high moral ang political ground unlike the terrorism and barbarity of the 10th Infantry Division-Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
NPA rebels captured Trinidad, who belongs to the 66th Infantry Battalion, on April 28 at a checkpoint in the village of Pagsabangan in New Bataan town in Compostela Valley province.
Trinidad was released in the village of Ngan in Compostela town. The soldier’s release came a day after the military accused the rebels of violating Trinidad’s rights by holding him against his will, an accusation strongly denied by the NPA.
The rebels said Trinidad was held as a prisoner of war. The NPA seized Trinidad on while on his way to barracks with another soldier, Corporal Japhet Lavid, who was able to escape.
Sanchez said the freed soldier was investigated for possible human rights violations and other crimes related to the operations of his unit in Mindanao. He accused Trinidad’s unit of violating the rights of many innocent civilians in Compostela Valley province over the past six months during the military’s anti-insurgency campaigns.
Trinidad was freed after the soldier’s family and other groups appealed for his safe release, he said.
“This is also in consideration to the appeals made by well-meaning individuals and allies, and the family of POW Trinidad. POW Trinidad's case may be re-opened in the event of another justifiable arrest in the course of the people's war,” Sanchez said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a secessionist war in the country. Peace talks between Manila and the CPP-NPA collapsed in 2004 after both sides failed to sign an agreement to end more than four decades of bloody fighting. (Mindanao Examiner)