Friday, February 18, 2011

NPA rebels free army prisoner in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Feb. 18, 2011) – Filipino communist rebels have freed on Friday a government soldier after more than a week in captivity in the southern Philippines.

Army Master Sergeant Mario Veluz was released after a rebel court absolved him of any crimes against the New People’s Army or civilians.

Veluz was captured on February 6 at a rebel checkpoint along a highway near Bukidnon province and had been held as prisoner of war. His pistol was also confiscated by rebels.

“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.

Santiago said during interrogation, Veluz told his captors that he had served in combat duties in the Philippine Army for more than three decades. Santiago said the rights of Veluz were protected under the International Humanitarian Law.

Rebels are also holding another government soldier Army Private First Class El Bryan Cañedo in Compostela Valley province and a policeman Jorge Sabatin in Agusan del Sur province. Both were captured separately this month.

Homer Sandejas, a spokesman for the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao, said the 23-year old soldier was arrested at a rebel checkpoint in the village of Marapat in Compostela town. A pistol was seized from the infantryman.

He said Cañedo is a member of the 5th Scout Ranger Company under the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion and both the soldier and Sabatin are facing investigation for possible crimes committed against the masses and the revolutionary movement.

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)

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