THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has issued a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) order for the release of two New People’s Army (NPA) prisoners of war (POWs) in Socsargen, a government peace negotiator said.
Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel member Hernani Braganza said the release of the POWs is likely to be held tomorrow and will be facilitated by Cagayan de Oro Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and Sowing the Seeds of Peace convenor Felixberto Calang.
Braganza said he has been talking to concerned parties to effect the release, including Calang, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili yesterday, GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and the AFP since yesterday on the matter.
“We hope and pray the release tomorrow would be successful,” Braganza said.
Earlier, NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos said their scheduled release of Philippine Army’s Sgt. Solaiman Calucop and Pfc. Samuel Garay last April 11 somewhere in the Socsargen region was cancelled because of continuing military and police operations that put the safety of the POWs, their families and third party facilitators at risk.
“Continuing offensive military and police operations in the Socsargen area have impeded the New People’s Army (NPA) from releasing two prisoners of war,” Madlos, in a April 12 statement, said.
“The AFP and PNP (Philippine National Police) have stubbornly refused to heed the clamor for their units to stand down and suspend offensive operations to provide the opportunity for such a turnover,” the NPA spokesperson added.
The NPA said Calucop and Garay’s release is in line with the April 6, 2017 Joint Statement signed by the NDFP and GRP, and the February 18 declaration of the CPP.
“The two (2) Parties agreed to undertake necessary measures to effect the immediate, safe and expeditious release of AFP and PNP elements held captive by the NPA in Eastern Mindanao, with the captives held in Socsargen to be release before Easter and those in Bukidnon and Caraga after Easter,” their April 6 statement said.
The two soldiers were captured by the NPA in Columbia, Sultan Kudarat province last February 2.
The NPA is also set to to release three other POWs in Bukidnon and in the Caraga region.# (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image from CPP website)