ZAMBOANGA CITY: Five policemen taken prisoners by communist rebels have appealed for their lives, following a massive military shelling on strongholds of the New People’s Army (NPA) in southern Philippines.
Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said the “prisoners of war” – Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolf Y. Pacete, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali, Jr., and PO2 Neil C. Arellano – are being held by the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command.
The policemen were captured April 16 in the village of Salapawan, in Davao City’s Paquibato district, where the rebels attacked and overran an army post manned by the 72nd Infantry Battalion.
The rebels also released videos of the prisoners – a copy of which was sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner over the weekend – showing the policemen appealing to the government to halt the military shelling and suspension of police operations in Davao for fear they would be killed in the continuing assault.
The NPA branded the military assault and police operations as “lunatic and fruitless rescue offensives in Paquibato district.”
In his appeal, Tarungoy, commander of police station in Paquibato, speaking in his native language Bisaya, said: “I am appealing for my family to not worry; to my children – Baby, Didi, Leonard – don’t worry, for I am doing fine here. I am safe. They treat us well. They treat us as human beings.”
The others also made a similar appeal and called on the government to work for their safe release.
Sanchez also branded as propaganda the statement of police spokesman Wilben Mayor, who had said that the prisoners were being kept in “makeshift animal cages.”
“While the conditions of war necessitate that the NPA custodial force secure and neutralize the capability of POWs to inflict harm to revolutionary forces, the NPA abides [by]war protocols even in the face of relentless military pursuit,” he said. “Humane and lenient treatment of POWs is a hallmark of NPA’s custody of its captives.”
He added, “The police officers are legitimate targets of war when they acted in counter-insurgency and functioned as an integral part of the war machinery of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are being subjected to the legal and judicial process of the People’s Democratic Government, including validating the claims made by the police hierarchy that the five police officers have not committed any war crime.”
The NPA has been waging war for many decades now in an effort to establish a Maoist state in the country. AL JACINTO