• NPA frees two jail guards in Surigao

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY:  Communist rebels have freed two jail guards they took as prisoners of war in the southern Philippines following appeals made by their families and humanitarian groups.

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    The duo—Juan Salazar and Feliciano Polan—were released on Thursday by the New People’s Army (NPA) on a hinterland village in Surigao del Sur’s San Miguel town. They were held captive since April 27 after rebels ambushed their vehicle to free a prisoner, Jojean Alameda, who was falsely indentifed as a member of the rebel group.

    The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command insisted that Alameda is a rebel and a bomb expert.

    The prisoners were handed over to church and politi-cal leaders led by Tandag Bishop Nerio Odchimar and Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel.

    The NPA also mocked the military for its failure to rescue the prisoners despite its pronouncements that rebel forces are now dwindling in the region due to their anti-insurgency operations.

    Last December, rebels also seized Compostela Valley provincial jail warden Jose Mervin Coquilla and investigated him for alleged corruption and human rights abuses. He was freed last January 19 for humanitarian reasons.

    Government peace talks with the NPA collapsed in 2004 after rebels accused then President Gloria Arroyo of reneging on several agreements, among them the release of all political prisoners and lifting the terrorist tag on the Communist Party of the Philippines and its political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and the NPA.

    The national government also suspended the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees after the peace talks failed.

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