ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels on Wednesday freed a government soldier they captured in the southern province of Compostela Valley.
The Philippine Army said Sgt. Jeric Bucio Curay was released to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who negotiated with the New People’s Army for the soldier’s release.
Curay, a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, was captured at a checkpoint in the village of Andap in Laak town on April 4.
The 10th Civil Military Operation Battalion said Curay was released in the village of Casoon in Monkayo town.
“Sergeant Curay was unarmed during the time of his capture. His abduction was a CARHRIHL violation. Sergeant Curay will undergo physical and psychological stress debriefing at the Camp Panacan Station Hospital for further evaluation,” it said in a brief statement released to The Manila Times.
CARHRIHL refers to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first substantive agreement by the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, signed in 1998 in The Hague.
The soldier’s wife—who was reunited with him in Davao City—was quoted by the army as saying that “Curay is a dedicated soldier, responsible father and a good husband.”
The rebels have declared Curay as prisoner of war and interrogated him to determine his involvement in “counterrevolutionary and anti-people” activities in Laak town.
The capture of Curay coincided with the NPA’s renewed campaign against the 72nd Infantry Battalion whom the rebels accused—along with the 60th Infantry Battalion—of protecting big logging firms “which have wiped out the forests of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces.”
The rebel group said the wanton destruction of remaining forest cover and unchecked commercial logging in the provinces have greatly impoverished indigenous Lumad tribesmen and peasants and have made them more vulnerable to environmental disasters and climate change. It also accused politicians and policemen as among those behind indiscriminate logging operations in eastern Mindanao.
The NPA has previously taken soldiers as prisoners of war, but eventually freed them on humanitarian grounds.