THE New People’s Army (NPA) freed a third prisoner of war (POW) yesterday, April 27, in Barangay Dominorog, Talakag, Bukidnon, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant said.
The NPA turned over Police Officer 2 Gerome Anthony Natividad to Regional X Peace and Order Council chairperson and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno and Sowing the Seeds of Peace convenor and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, NDFP Negotiating Panel Ceasefire Committee member Alfredo Mapano said.
Natividad was found to be innocent of crimes against the people and was released in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Mapano said.
Mapano added Natividad should have been released earlier but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “refused to cooperate by ordering a Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO).”
“The NPA custodial unit found a way to release Natividad without a SOMO as it is confident Moreno and party would not be harmed by the AFP anyway,” he said.
Earlier, Ka Cesar Renerio, NDFP-North Central Mindanao Region in a February 23 statement assured Natividad’s family he will be released unharmed, provided the AFP ceases its military operations in the region.
Natividad was captured at a checkpoint put up by the NPA’s Mt. Kitanglad Sub-regional Command at Kilometer 28, Duminorog, Kitanglad last February 9.
The NDFP committed to the release of four POWs in its joint statement with its Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) counterpart in The Netherlands last April 6.
“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,” the statement said.
Sgt. Solaiman Calocop and Private First Class (PFC) Samuel Garay, both captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2 were released last April 19 in Matanao, Davao del Norte province.
PFC Edwin Salan, captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29, is the last remaining NPA POW.
Ceasefire committee meeting
Meanwhile, the NDFP and GRP ceasefire committees met at the Royal Norwegian Embassy this afternoon in accordance with activities set by both parties at the end of the fourth round of formal negotiations earlier this month.
Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Erik Førner hosted the meeting.
“We just exchanged views on our respective definitions of ‘buffer zones’ and ‘hostile acts’ and we presented our respective views on the matter of third party monitoring of the prospective joint ceasefire,” Mapano said.
Earlier, GRP Ceasefire Committee head Hernani Braganza announced on his social media accounts they met with AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año and staff last April 27 on the progress of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
The GRP and the NDFP are set to hold their fifth round of formal negotiations in Noordwijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands starting May 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photo of PO2 Natividad from Ang Kalihukan You Tube Channel)