By JORGE MADLOS (Ka Oris)
After a series of negotiations, we have come to a conclusion that the position of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao and that of the “crisis” committee of the local government on the issue of the length of time and the areas covered by the local ceasefire is irreconcilable, which, therefore, makes the supposed release of the four prisoners of war (POWs) impossible. Thus, we are cancelling the release of the four POWs set on 25 July.
The NDFP-Mindanao made several adjustments to its original request, if only to accommodate the different proposals put forward by the “crisis” committee and other officials of the GPH.We started with a proposal for a 10-day ceasefire, which we adjusted to eight days, and then readjusted to seven. Finally, we brought down our proposal to implement a six-day local ceasefire that shall start at 1700h of 23 July 2014 until 2359h midnight of 29 July 2014.
A timeframe much shorter than this would seriously compromise the release. The New People’s Army custodial force needs two to three days to transfer with no risk of enemy encounter the four POWs from its current location to the actual venue for the release. After the release, the same NPA unit will need another three days to relocate and reach a relatively safe area.
The proposed areas to be covered by the ceasefire have been reduced from all of the towns in mainland Surigao del Norte to only six (6), namely: Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Placer,Tubod and Alegria. Meanwhile, the three municipalities of Agusan del Norte, namely Kitcharao, Jabonga and Santiago, have been maintained.
Within the last few days, at least nine armed skirmishes between NPA and Armed Forces of the Philippines units took place in the general location of the abovementioned municipalities. We have not declared a definite place among these mentioned municipalities to ensure the safety of the release.
The local “crisis” committee amended their original one-day ceasefire proposal to two days, and then, finally, to only three days of ceasefire and to cover only limited areas. Clearly, this cannot guarantee the safe release of the POWs as well as the safe withdrawal of the NPA custodial force.
The “crisis” committee doubts our sincere intent to release the POW as a gesture of peace and of humanitarian consideration, which is encouraged by the reckless prodding of military and police committee members to suspect that the NPA will only use the weeklong ceasefire to regroup and launch another attack similar to the Alegria PNP station incident.
Committee members have also been led to believe that the AFP’s military operations have “pressured” the NPA to release the POW, as if they have gained anything in their nearly two weeks offensive operations in the area. In fact the AFP and the PNP have sustained a number of casualties while the NPA units remain safe. Further, their current operations have led to the violent displacement of the civilian populace and exacerbated human rights abuses in the area. This only exposes their desperation, insincerity and callous disregard of the welfare of their men in the field and the families of the POWs.
This issue has already been brought to the doorstep of Malacañang by the family and the Third Party facilitators though the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Assistance for the Peace Process) to intercede and grant their request for a safe release of the four POWs. Yet, nothing came out positive. In spite of the pleas of the families of the POWs and the Third Party facilitators and the NDFP’s skipping of the normal procedure as a gesture of goodwill, Malacañang simply chose to ignore these, thereby, endangering the lives of the POWs and sidestep the interest of just and lasting peace.
With the refusal of the government to issue the needed ceasefire, the NDFP-Mindanao is now definitely cancelling the release of the four Prisoners of War. They will be moved to a safer place where the process of investigation and possible trial may be conducted.
To the family, the Third Party facilitators and to all concerned, we assure you that the four POWs will be treated humanely and shall be accorded their basic rights in the course of the investigation and possible trial in accordance with the revolutionary justice system.