DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 19, 2011) – New People’s Army rebels have freed Saturday a police officer they held in captivity for more than two weeks in the southern Philippines, the group’s spokesman said.
Roel Agustin II, of the New People’s Army Conrado Heredia Command, said the police officer Jorge Sabatin was released as an act of goodwill after a rebel court absolved him of any charges against the Maoist group which has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.
He said: “The order to release POW PO3 Sabatin was also issued as an act of goodwill for the formal resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front.”
The National Democratic Front is the political wing of the underground Communist Party of the Philippines which is currently negotiating peace with the Aquino government.
“On the occasion of the renewed round of peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Conrado Heredia Command-Front 20 Operations Command of the New People's Army in Southern Mindanao has released today NPA Prisoner of War PO3 Jorge Sabatin with Badge No. 146981,” Agustin said.
Sabatin, a member of the 1403rd Police Provincial Mobile Group, was taken prisoner after rebel forces stormed and overrun and police post on February 1 in Agusan del Sur’s Trento town.
The policeman was wounded in the firefight and had been taken cared of by rebels during his captivity. The rebels accused security forces in the town of protecting politicians and their private army involved in alleged extortion activities and illegal logging.
Agustin said the prisoner could have been freed early, but military operations against the rebels in the provinces of Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental had delayed the release.
“His reunion with his family could have been much earlier had the military and police heeded calls of Sabatin’s family and well-meaning individuals to cease their futile and failed combat operations to make way for his earlier release,” he said.
Sabatin had earlier appealed to the military and police to stop operations to rescue him because it could jeopardize his safe release.
‘The safe and orderly release of PO3 Sabatin today has only proven the futility of the so-called military and police rescue missions. Despite the intensified operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines before and even during the week-long ceasefire, the safety and well-being of POW Sabatin were ensured inside the territories of the People's Democratic Government. The NPA has once again proven its principled adherence to international covenants and war protocols,” Agustin said.
Communist rebels on Friday also released a government soldier, Army Master Sergeant Mario Veluz, after more than a week in captivity in Mindanao.
Veluz was captured on February 6 at a rebel checkpoint along a highway near Bukidnon province and had been held as prisoner of war.
“The Herminio Alfonso Command-Front 53 Operations Command of the New People's Army released today Master Sergeant Mario Veluz after an investigation cleared him of his possible continuing active involvement in counter-revolutionary activities. He has neither direct culpability nor serious violations to the revolutionary movement,” said Isabel Santiago, a rebel spokesperson for the Herminio Alfonso Command.
Rebels are also holding another government soldier Army Private First Class El Bryan Cañedo in Compostela Valley province who was captured this month at a rebel checkpoint in the village of Marapat in Compostela Valley’s Compostela town.
Cañedo is a member of the 5th Scout Ranger Company under the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion.
The rebels have declared a weeklong truce starting on February 15 to allow peace talks with the Aquino government in Norway which is brokering the negotiations.
Peace talks collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements and among them was the release of all political detainees.
The truce came after the Aquino government declared a cease-fire with the New People’s Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which is fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the largely Catholic country. The 40-year old communist insurgency in the Philippines is the longest in the world. (Mindanao Examiner)