COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 29, 2011) – New People’s Army rebels have freed two government soldiers on Sunday, ending 44 days of captivity in the southern Philippines.
Isabel Santiago, a spokesperson for the NPA’s Herminio Alfonso Command, said the soldiers - Corporal Delfin Largo Sarocam and Private First Class Jayson Burgos Valenzuela, were freed in the town of Magpet in North Cotabato province.
The soldiers, who are members of the 57th Infantry Battalion sent to fight insurgents in Mindanao, were captured on April 14. They were released on humanitarian grounds after their families and other multi-sectoral groups appealed for their freedom.
Santiago said soldiers should have been freed earlier, but continued military operations against the NPA prevented the rebels from releasing them. The 4th and 6th Infantry Divisions have launched operations to rescue the soldiers despite appeals made by their families to halt the missions because it could jeopardize the safety of the soldiers.
“In contrast to the intransigence of the Philippine Army, the New People's Army gives value to humanitarian appeals. The POWs' release would have been much earlier had these Philippine Army Divisions immediately heeded the clamor of their families, the various people's organizations and well-meaning individuals. The enemy's full combat operations designed as a ‘rescue mission’ ended in complete failure and only succeeded in prolonging the POWs' captivity,” Santiago said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
The two infantrymen were being investigated for possible violations of human rights in the course of their anti-insurgency campaign, but the rebels suspended the probe because of the appeals made by the soldiers’ families.
“The POWs' case information shall be archived but their release will not prejudice any future action under justifiable grounds. The NPA has a policy of humane and lenient treatment of its captives. The custodial unit applied the pertinent provisions under Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions with respect to the rights of POWs Corporal Sarocam and Private First Class Valenzuela.”
“As the people's army continue to intensify its tactical offensives alongside the implementation of the revolutionary land reform and the building of the mass base and local organs of democratic political power in the countryside, it shall also continue to exercise its revolutionary authority to arrest and capture enemy officers and personnel in the course of the civil war in the country,” Santiago said.
The NPA is fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the largely Catholic country. (Mindanao Examiner)