Early release of captured soldier in Bukidnon mulled

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on Thursday, May 18, said it is considering releasing a captured Philippine Army soldier in time for the fifth round of peace negotiations between the government and Communist rebels later this month.

The imminent release of Technical Sergeant Joseph Paredes, who was taken by New People's Army (NPA) rebels posing as policemen in Valencia City, Bukidnon early this month, will be due to the insurgents’ support to the peace talks, said Cesar Renerio, spokesperson of the NDFP in the North central Mindanao Region (NCMR).

Based on its own investigation, the NDFP-NCMR found out that Paredes is allegedly an intelligence officer of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), and is said to have civilian assets, who are monitoring the movement of NPA all over the region.

Paredes, the group alleged, is also the leader of the “Magic 7,” a gun-for-hire group responsible for a series of robberies.
The group said it is ready to let go Paredes if he will admit his violations and will promise not to do it again.

As of Thursday, the 4th ID has yet to issue a statement to refute this allegation.

The NDFP has also appealed to church leaders who are acting as third party facilitators to intervene in the eventual freedom of Paredes.

The rebels asked the military and the Philippine National Police to stop their respective combat operations within the region as one of its demands.

Meanwhile, Paredes’ wife Juliana de Falconeri, in an interview Thursday afternoon, said she is thankful if the NPA will release the captured soldier.

“I will be very happy if he is released. Our youngest child is always looking for him,” she said, adding that she and their six children all depend on Paredes as she has no means of income.

She also defended Paredes saying that her husband is not an intelligence officer of the military as alleged by the NPA.

“My husband is just an ordinary soldier. He is not even a combatant. He just works in the office,” she added.

She said she was given a chance to talk with Paredes through a phone call and found out that he was doing fine.

“The [NPA custodial team leader] even asked me my husband’s food preference, and I told them he can eat anything,” Juliana said.

Paredes’ only complaint was he is constantly feeling the chills due to the cold weather in the area where he is kept.

“He said, ‘hon, I feel so cold here.’ I’m sure his knee will act up again,” she added.

For his part, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, co-convenor of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, one of the third party facilitators, said they will coordinate with Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr. for the release of Paredes.
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