NPA releases 2 soldiers held captive for 2 months
MANILA, Philippines – It was happy reunion with their wives after over two months in captivity.
Sergeant Solaiman Calocop and Private First Class Samuel Garay, the two soldiers that communist rebels abducted in Sultan Kudarat, were released Wednesday morning, April 19.
Jessa Mae Garay is 6 months pregnanat but she still joined Normalia Calocop and the local officials who served as 3rd party facilitators in the release.
The Mt. Alip Command of the New People's Army released the two soldiers at 9 am on Wednesday in Davao Del Sur. They were brought to Camp Panacan in Davao City for medical check-up.
It's a fulfillment of one of the commitments made to the government by the National Democratic Front (NDF), which is representing the communist rebels in peace talks with the Duterte administration.
Army 10th Infantry Division Commander Major General Rafael Valencia said the soldiers were turned over to former Davao Del Sur Representative Mark Cagas who met with the communist rebels with a number of local officials.
"We are glad that the CPP/NPA rectified the treacherous and insincere act that they made last February 2 of abducting the two soldiers while there was ceasefire and there was ongoing peace talks with the government," Valencia said.
The communist rebels were also protesting back then the alleged ceasefire abuses committed by the military, which prompted the NPA to withdraw its ceasefire.
The release of the soldiers was delayed because the military refused to declare a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO), a request made by the rebels to guarantee the safety of the captives, the rebels, and the third party facilitators.
Valencia maintained the soldiers were taken when there was a ceasefire in place and there were no military operations. He said there's no reason to declare SOMO for their release because the rebels can just abandon the soldiers anywhere.
"Ang position namin dyan, kung gusto nila iwanan na lang nila kahit saan ang 2 sundalo. Unang-una, naka-civilian 'yan. Unarmed 'yan nung kinuha nila. Sabi ko nga, if they are responsible and sincere partner sa peace talks, dapat noon pa nila pinakawalan 'yan dahil kinuha nila yan nung ceasefire at may peace talks pa e," said Valencia.
(Our position is, if they want they can leave the two soldiers somewhere. In the first place, they were wearing civilian clothes and were unarmed when they were taken. As I've said, if they are a responsible and sincere partner in the peace talks, they should have released them a long time ago because they were taken when we still had a ceasefire and there was peace talks.)
President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped the peace talks after the NPA withdrew its ceasefire, but he changed his mind and the camps agreed to reopen negotiations 6 weeks later. (READ: PH, NDF reopen talks after bitter impasse).
Clashes between the military and the NPA continue, however, despite the reopening of the talks.
The two camps met for the 4th round of formal talks in early April where they agreed to forge an interim joint ceasefire. This could be in place towards the end of the year at the latest if talks on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) proceed as scheduled. – Rappler.com