By Rigoberto F. Sanchez
Spokesperson, Merardo Arce Command
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operational Command
After his safe release Tuesday, January 6, it is understandable that former New People's Army (NPA) prisoner of war 1Lt. Vicente P. Cammayo mouths what his superiors in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) expected from him — loyalty to their flag, that he did not surrender but was captured by the NPA and an empty call to the NPA to abandon the people's democratic revolution.
As his superiors in the AFP hierarchy lose face in the failed rescue operations and the tacit public recognition of the NPA's political and moral authority to release him, Lt. Cammayo hopes to accomplish what his superiors and colleagues could not: overturn the humiliation and assert the AFP's supremacy.
Although obviously physically fit and unwounded, Lt. Cammayo faced the not-so-happy AFP that continues to spin the lies that he was treated miserably. The AFP started the scripted drama when they ridiculously placed Lt. Cammayo on a wheel chair upon setting foot at their AFP headquarters in Davao City, presented to the media without sound bytes, and all photo ops. Then a day later, military doctors issue a medical diagnosis that Lt. Cammayo allegedly had an ear injury and handcuff markings and rope cuts on his body. The accusation is as wild and futile as their earlier pronouncements.
The drama was intended to further save face, especially as 1003rd Infantry Brigade-AFP Col. Joel IbaÃ±ez got a public and unceremonial dressing down from Davao City mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte who was irked due to the presence of AFP troops, intelligence agents in the turn-over area.
As he faces a so-called AFP debriefing, Lt. Cammayo has to explain and extricate himself why his troops were roundly defeated in the November 7 NPA ambush in sitio Anagase, Casoon, Monkayo.
When his troops were ambushed by an elite NPA unit, three of Cammayo's men were instantly killed, others wounded. An M60 machine gun and other high-powered rifles were seized from Cammayo's team. As a field officer leading a supposedly elite AFP special forces unit, he has clearly failed to lead his troops even in an organized retreat; but instead surrendered, unhurt.
As he surrendered, the NPA did what is right by declaring him a prisoner of war and according him the rights stipulated in international war protocols. Instead of finishing him off like what the AFP routinely does to NPA hors de combat, his rights were protected and respected as a POW all throughout the intensified military operations. In effect, this is like a favor done to the army officer inspite his avowed loyalty to the AFP.
Lt. Cammayo's recognition that his NPA custodians accorded him a humane and lenient treatment befitting his POW status was good enough for the NPA. The NPA has no grand expectations nor illusions to make an instant convert out of Lt. Cammayo to the revolutionary cause or an allegiance to serve the people through the revolutionary army.
This is a practical reality recognized by the revolutionary forces along with the fact that there exist two armies in the country: a reactionary on the one side, and a revolutionary one on the other – a people's army that fights for the just aspirations of the people. Thus, because it is just, the armed struggle against the rotten system now being represented by the fascist US-Arroyo regime persists and continues to make headways and achieve favorable gains for the people.
Much as the delusional AFP spokesperson Lt. Ernesto Torres harps on that Cammayo's release was borne out of the pressure caused by the offensive military operations, he is a victim of his own ridiculous propaganda. The two-month captivity and orderly release of Lt. Cammayo, and for that matter, the safe and orderly releases of other NPA POWs held in the course of the people's war only manifests the wide and deep mass base and political influence of the revolutionary movement. That the NPA has safely released Lt. Cammayo as scheduled on the first week of January only proves the futility of the rescue operations of the desperate reactionary AFP.
Lt. Cammayo faces a humiliated AFP whose rescue operation-cum-military offensive operations were exercises in futility, and ending as one big flop after another. With their militarist arrogance made more vicious by desperation, their offensive operations succeeded only to showcase the inherent rotten character of the AFP and left a bloody trail of human rights violations against civilians in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur.
In the aftermath of his 60-day captivity as NPA POW, Lt. Cammayo contends with a bankrupt AFP whose mounting battlefield defeats–like what has befallen his troops in Compostela Valley–stares them in the face and speaks contrarily about their delusions of wiping out the people's revolutionary armed resistance by next year.
As Lt. Cammayo goes home in Tuguegarao in Luzon, he will surely be welcomed as a local hero. He cannot miss the fact though that he was freed on humanitarian grounds and out of goodwill in the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. And he can also look back to the fact that other AFP soldiers deployed in the NPA areas in Southern Mindanao like him from Tuguegarao were not as lucky to come home alive.