POWs’ release in Surigao del Norte cancelled due to AFP refusal to withdraw troops

POWs nemr 15jan2015By MARIA MALAYA
Spokesperson, NDFP Northeast Mindanao Chapter

The NDFP Northeast Mindanao (NDFP-NEMR) regrets to inform the relatives and friends, the Third Party Facilitators and the general public that the release on 17 January 2015 of the three (3) Prisoners of War, namely PO1 Jorie M. Amper, PO3 Democrito B. Polvorosa, and PO1 Marichel U. Contemplo, negotiated between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the emissaries of Department of Interior and Local Government (of the Manila government), is cancelled due chiefly to the refusal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to temporarily withdraw their COPD operatives from the area.

To facilitate the safe and orderly release of the three POWs, and to avoid possible encounters between the New People’s Army and the AFP, the NDFP-NEMR requested that AFP units conducting “Community Organizing for Peace and Development” operations in Barangays (villages) Sico-sico and Camam-onan, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte province, to temporarily withdraw to their base camp in Barangay Mahanub, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, even as the personnel of the Barangay Sico-sico detachment remain in place.

Despite negotiations, Brig. Gen. Jonathan Ponce, head of the Philippine Army’s 402nd Infantry Brigade, refused to meet this request, a position that seriously endangered not only the lives of the three POWs but of their family and loved ones, and others who wish to attend their actual release. Having been informed of this, the NDFP-NEMR deemed it necessary to call off the release and ordered the NPA Custodial Force to relocate to a safer place.

The release of the three POWs was meant to be a gesture of peace during the Papal visit and in response to the ardent request of the family to be reunited with their loved ones. This is also a confidence building-measure for the resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH (Manila government).

With these three reasons, the AFP should not have found it difficult to consider the simple request of the NPA Custodial Force, the family, the local Third Party Facilitators, the Local Crisis Committee of the Surigao del Norte province, the Chairman of the Peace and Order Council of Caraga Mayor Ferdinand “Jun” Amante and, most especially, the office of the DILG Secretary. In spite of the AFP’s outright refusal, we thank all those who genuinely gave effort to somehow make the release possible.