BUTUAN CITY: The Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) finally admitted they are on a stalemate in their talks with the NPA as to the release of three Surigao del Norte policemen who were kidnapped more than two months ago.
The NPA rebels confirmed earlier they abducted the three cops in separate incidents.
Last Christmas, the families of the policemen have earnestly requested the rebels to free their captives as a gift but the NPAs turned a deaf ear.
In a news conference last Jan. 16, RPOC Chair and Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr. said talks between the NPA rebels and military, initiated by the Council and with the help of religious and civil society groups bogged down.
Amante added that for now, they will try to ask the involvement of the national government on this issue.
Amante said the RPOC has requested a halt to all military operations and peace and development activities, even the temporarily pull out of troops in the area in the meantime to pave way for the release.
The military responded they cannot for they have a sworn duty to protect ordinary residents and citizens as the reason of their presence there.
Philippine Army’s 4th ID Commanding General Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao said they have given in on the NPA’s demands for suspension of the military operation and then here comes complete military pull out before the three cops will be released, that, he said, cannot be done.
For his part, Brigadier General Jonathan Ponce, commanding officer of the 402nd Brigade, said the NPA should be blamed for the delay of the policemen’s release.
The military’s 402nd Brigade holds area of responsibility and jurisdiction over entire area of Surigao del Norte.
In a press statement, NDF-Northeast Mindanao Spokesperson Maria Malaya claimed the release was supposedly scheduled last Saturday Jan. 17, but was cancelled.
The reason, according to Malaya, was the failure of the military to leave the area of Sico-sico and Camam-onan, Gigaquit in Surigao del Norte and to withdraw to their base camp in Mahanub.
Malaya explained the release of the three policemen was apparently their “gesture of peace” during the papal visit and a positive response to the plea of the relatives that they all be reunited, which the military destroyed.
The three kidnapped policemen were identified as PO1 Jorie M. Amper and Marichel U. Contemplo, and PO3 Democrito B. Polvorosa. (WITH REPORTS FROM BEN SERRANO)