ZAMBOANGA CITY: Communist rebels have freed five government soldiers taken captive six weeks ago after their families and humanitarian groups appealed for their safe release, a spokesman for the New People’s Army said.
Rubi del Mundo said the Wednesday’s order to free the prisoners-of-war came from the National Democratic Front-Southern Mindanao.
The soldiers—Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon Private first class (Pfc.) Vernie, Private Marteniano Pasigas, Pfc. Ronald Gura and Pfc. Donato Estandian—were handed over to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City in Paquibato district, a known communist stronghold.
“The NDFP’s act of goodwill was a favorable response to the appeals of the families of the POWs and the request of well-meaning parties and personages that have expressed support for a negotiated settlement on the issue of Prisoners of War within the purview of the CARHRIHL and the Geneva Conventions and its Protocols,” del Mundo said.
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 NDF also said the Release Order was “an act in the exercise of the political power and authority of the People’s Democratic Government and is done on humanitarian grounds,” Del Mundo said.
Del Mundo said the soldiers are members of the 60th Infantry Battalion who were tried by the people’s revolutionary court for cases of harassment, intimidation and other violations against the peasant and Lumad masses in Paquibato.
The battalion is under the supervision of the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City. The army has not issued any statement about the release of the soldiers.
The rebels have been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.