Reds puts off release of captive policemen

Communist rebels called off the scheduled release of the two police officers they abducted in Placer town in Surigao del Norte early last month, citing the military’s refusal to suspend operations to facilitate the captives’ safe return to their loved ones.

Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Northeastern Mindanao (NDF-NEMR), said in an emailed statement that PO2 Jhon Paul M. Doverte and PO2 Alfredo L. Degamon were supposed to be released on Dec. 5 as part of the NDF’s gesture of peace and in response to the ardent request of their families to be reunited with them this Christmas.

New People’s Army guerrillas wearing vests and uniforms of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group snatched Doverte and Degamon on Nov. 13 at a police outpost in Barangay Bad-as, Placer town.

Malaya said they decided to cancel the scheduled release of the two policemen after the military refused to heed the Third Party Facilitator’s call for them to stand down.

“All units of military and police force should stand down for six days in six towns of the province to pave way for the safe release but the military failed to do so as they continued its military operations,” she said.

Lt. Col. Tomas Allen, commanding officer of the 30th Infantry Battalion did not reply to text messages asking for his comment on the issue.

Capt. Francisco P. Garello Jr., civil-military operations officer of the 36th Infantry Battalion said they will issue a press statement.

Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Philippine Independent Church, who heads the Third Party Facilitator earlier said the police had agreed to stop their operations for six days for the safe release of the captives but the military has not responded.

“It is indeed very unfortunate that it was canceled. The release was almost within reach, since the party which has custody of the two police officers as POW (prisoners of war) had already given its commitment to release them,” Timbang said.

“The cancellation meant that the anguish and anxiety of the families of the police officers is prolonged. It also meant that the AFP and PNP are more interested with their policies rather than the lives of their personnel.

“The AFP and PNP are not interested to act quickly because PO2 John Paul Doverte and PO2 Alfredo Degamon Jr are low ranking personnel only. It implies that there is really a compelling reason why the peace talks have to continue, and President Duterte has to reconsider his declaration of an all-out war against the NPA,” he added.

“In war, there is no victor, only victims. The victims here are the ordinary people and the low-ranking soldiers and police,” he stressed.

The Third Party Facilitator had initiated several releases of captive police officers in Surigao del Norte since 2014. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)