Release of 5 captured soldiers highlights calls for resumption of peace talks

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AFTER 44 DAYS of detention, the New People’s Army released Wednesday afternoon in the hinterlands of Davao City’s Paquibato District the five soldiers following incessant appeals from their respective families and peace groups.

The release of the five prisoners of war (POW) was done upon the orders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). They were taken by First Pulang Bagani Battalion of the NPA headed by Leoncio Pitao or Ka Parago.

The soldiers, all members to the 60th Infantry Battalion, were turned over to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who has been consistent with his call for the government and the NDFP to go back to the negotiation table and address important issues concerting the insurgency and peace.

Earlier, Duterte said the peace negotiations “needs an urgent and immediate attention.”

“We cannot allow this thing to linger on,” he said adding that there is need for both sides to go go back to the negotiating table and talk and “hopefully minimize punitive actions on both sides.”

The peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Aquino administration was stalled with both sides accusing each other of insincerity. The NDFP has been lamenting over the failure of the government to release political prisoners despite an earlier commitment from top government officials. The government, on the one hand, has accused the NDFP of dragging the peace negotiations as its armed wing, the NPA, has been relentless with its military attacks.

On Thursday, as he was receiving the released prisoners, Duterte once again stressed the importance of the openness of the government to the negotiations.

Davao Today reporter Earl Condeza quoted Duterte as saying that the “government can’t close our doors.”

“I still leave an open window to talk with the communists,” Duterte said. Condenza’s report also quoted Duterte, who has always been invited to receive POWs, as saying that if the government will “close everything, what will happen to us? Our ears will bleed from the sound of firearms. Believe me, this will not end through war.”

Rubi del Mundo, NDFP Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said the release was “in compliance with the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949 and its Protocols and pursuant to the decision taken by the organs of the People’s Democratic Government.”

The released prisoners were Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfc. Vernie Padilla, Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas, Pfc. Ronald Gura, and Pfc. Donato Estandian.

Del Mundo said the  soldiers were captured and “were tried by the people’s revolutionary court for cases of harassment, intimidation and other violations against the peasant and Lumad masses by the 10th ID-Philippine Army in Paquibato district.”

The NDF also said the release “an act in the exercise of the political power and authority of the People’s Democratic Government and is done on humanitarian grounds.”

“After the capture of the prisoner, he has been investigated by responsible organs of the Detaining Power and no sufficient evidence has been established to warrant his prosecution for serious crimes committed against the Filipino people and the revolutionary movement,” del Mundo said.

Del Mundo also stressed that the release was in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. | NewsDesk

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