By FIDEL V. AGCAOILI
Spokesperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Chairperson, NDFP Human Rights Committee
During the recent informal talks in Oslo, the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) did not make any formal request to the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the release of the prisoners of war under the custody of the New People's Army (NPA) in Mindanao.
The prisoners of war are First Lt. Vicente Cammayo of the reactionary army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion and SPO3 Eduardo Tumol of the Davao Oriental provincial police mobile group.
The Arroyo regime must be held accountable for ignoring the advice of the NPA Merardo Arce Command for the GRP to make a formal request for the release of the POWs and for ordering instead the intensification of so-called rescue operations.
Lt. Cammayo and SPO3 Tumol are subject to investigation and detention for possible violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. If they are tried and found guilty for grave criminal offences, they might be speedily meted out the appropriate punishment decided by court martial, especially because of the ongoing military operations to “rescue” them. If they are acquitted, they cannot be released because there is no agreement for their safe and orderly release between the GRP and NDFP.
To carry out safe and orderly release, it is necessary for the GRP and NDFP sides to undertake mutual ceasefire through the so-called suspension of military operations (SOMO) and suspension of police operations (SOPO) on the GRP and the specific ceasefire declaration of the NDFP. The families of the prisoners of war should press on the GRP side for the SOMO and SOPO according to the specifications of the NPA command concerned through the NDFP Negotiating Panel.
The Arroyo regime, especially the military-dominated cabinet cluster on national security headed by General Ermita and the presidential adviser on the peace process General Esperon, is extremely uncaring for military and police officers captured by the NPA.
The Ramos regime acted quite differently. Then president Fidel V, Ramos himself and other high officials showed more concern for the prisoners of war under the custody of the NPA as well as the prisoners’ families, and promptly made formal requests for their release through the NDFP negotiating panel.
The Arroyo regime and its top butchers, Generals Ermita and Esperon, are extremely arrogant and are known to say callously that it is the job of soldiers to kill and be killed and should not expect any help if they allow themselves to be captured in the battlefield.