DAVAO CITY – Communist rebels on Wednesday freed two government soldiers they captured in southern Philippines ahead of peace talks with Manila.
The soldiers, Sergeant Solaiman Calocop and Private First Class Samuel Garay, were released near Sultan Kudarat province after 75 days in captivity. Both are members of
39th Infantry Battalion seized by the New People’s Army on February 2. They have been handed over to the military and were being debriefed by the army.
The rebels earlier accused the military of sabotaging the release of the “prisoners-of-war” by launching offensives against the NPA.
Jorge Madlos, a rebel spokesman, said continuing offensive military and police operations impeded the NPA from releasing prisoners. He said they even last week the turnover program for the soldiers because of the military operations that put the safety of the prisoners, their families and third party facilitators at risk.
He said as early as February 18, the rebels had planned to release the prisoners in time for Easter. “The military and police, however, 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,” Madlos said.
“By ordering their troops to continue offensive operations, the officers of the military and police were exhibiting zero concern for the safety and welfare of their men who are in the custody of the NPA as well as for the third party facilitators who are helping arrange the release of the POWs,” he added.
Madlos said the NPA – which has been fighting for many decades now for a separate state - is also set to release three other captured soldiers in Bukidnon province and in the CARAGA region. (Mindanao Examiner)