AFP declares 5-day ceasefire

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014


THE Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-Eastmincom) unilaterally declared on Sunday a five-day ceasefire with the New People's Army (NPA) in the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte in Caraga Region.

Eastmincom public information officer Capt. Alberto Caber, in a phone interview with Sun.Star Davao Thursday, said the suspension of offensive military operations (Somo), which started 1 a.m. on July 27 and will end at 1 a.m. on August 1, came from the directive of the AFP chief of staff Lt. General Gregorio Catapang Jr.

"Sinuportahan namin ang decision na walang military operations muna pati na ating mga kapulisan dun, for the safe release of the four policemen seized during the raid staged by the rebels at Alegria Municipal Police Station [last July 10]," Caber said.

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As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the rebels were still holding Police Officer 3 (PO3) Vic Concon and PO1 Rey Oniel Morales, of the Alegria Municipal Police Station, and PO1 Joen Zabala and PO1 Dito Roquino, of Surigao Provincial Public Safety Company.

The four were released Tuesday afternoon. The ceasefire holds despite the release early into the five-day period.

Eastmincom commander Lt. General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III implemented five-day Somo in the towns of Placer, Bacuag, Tubod, Gigakit, Claver and Alegria, all in Surigao del Norte and in Santiago, Kitcharao and Jabonga, all in Agusan del Norte.

"The five-day ceasefire temporarily prevents the AFP to conduct deliberate offensive operations against the NPA except on activities that is meant to support the civil authorities, government instrumentalities, and other agencies in promoting peace, development and humanitarian assistance programs," Caber said.

Deputy Regional Director for Operations (DRDO) Sr. Supt. Pedro Obaldo of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Caraga Region, in a separate interview, said they are supporting the ceasefire.

Caber said the continuous joint military and police pursuit operations in same provinces resulted to 13 encounters with several NPA rebels killed while those wounded were brought to different places as they scampered for safety and evade our forces.

The Eastmincom also recorded around 20 kidnappings and abduction committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA in Eastern Mindanao since 2010, Caber said.

"The military and police are working closely with the concerned local government units and other civilian stakeholders for the protection of the people and their communities from attacks, harassment and extortion activities by the CPP-NPA," Caber said.

Cops released

The four policemen, Police Officer 3 (PO3) Vic Concon and PO1 Rey Oniel Morales of the Alegria Municipal Police Station, and PO1 Joen Zabala and PO1 Dito Roquino of Surigao Provincial Public Safety Company, were released at around 3 p.m. yesterday after 19 days in captivity.

Obaldo of the Police Regional Office (PRO) in Caraga Region, in a phone interview with Sun.Star Davao, on Tuesday said the four police officers were turned over to representatives of the local government unit and Third Party Facilitators.

"They arrived here sa baba around 5 p.m. na kasi nagkaroon pa ng programa sa taas bago sila naka-alis," Obaldo said, adding that the release order was reportedly signed by Luis Jalandoni, of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The NDFP ordered the release of the four captives in response to the humanitarian appeals by the police officers' families, LGUs, peace advocates, and following the suspension of military operations in the area.

Reports said that Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas secured the commitment of the NDF to free the four captives once the military and police declares a five-day ceasefire.

The DILG secretary said he took the initiative of seeking the release of the four policemen from the NDF in Mindanao leadership Jorge Madlos, who earlier cancelled the release scheduled July 25, after the crisis committee of the local government offered only a maximum of three-day ceasefire.

Roxas said he talked with the NDF after it canceled the turnover last Friday. He added that the NDF then decided to reduce substantially their conditions from ten-day to five-day ceasefire for the safe release of the four policemen.

The four policemen were welcomed by the DILG secretary in Agusan del Norte together with the Interior Undersecretary Hernani Braganza, Obaldo said.

He added that he is thankful to Roxas and to local officials and peace advocates who negotiated for the safe release of their men.

The four policemen were seized during an NPA attack at Alegria Municipal Police Station in Alegria town in Surigao del Norte last July 10.

Obaldo said the four policemen will undergo physical and psychological stress debriefing before they will return to the service.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 30, 2014.

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