Surigao City – Three policemen abducted by the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Northern Mindanao province of Surigao del Norte last year were released today to Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte ending over three months of captivity and agonizing wait by their families.
Duterte, former national security adviser to the previous administration and now chairman of the regional peace and order council (RPOC) of Region XI fetched the three NPA captives from a rebel camp at noon today.
The Davao City Mayor flew by private helicopter to the rebel camp in an undisclosed place in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte province to receive the three policemen, the last group of government men abducted and held hostage by the NPAs.
After the release of the three policemen by the NPAs, Mayor Duterte proceeded to the office of Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas and turned over the captives to the officials of the province and their families.
Duterte said he decided to talk with the NPA when the families of the abducted policemen went to Davao City to personally ask him to intervene and help them.
“They asked me if I could help them and I said I will talk to the NPAs. I am always willing to help…naaawa ako sa mga kapamilya ng mga na abduct,” Duterte said.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines said in a statement that the release of the three policemen was ordered as an act of goodwill for the resumption of the GPH-NDFP peace talks and for humanitarian consideration.
No ransom was paid, according to sources close to Mayor Duterte.
Duterte, in a statement made after the release of the captives, reiterated his earlier appeal to the national government to take concrete steps to end the 42-year-long Communist insurgency in the Philippines which has stunted the growth and development of the countryside.
“We have been fighting our fellow Filipinos for the last 42 years. Would it take another 42 years before we finally put an end to this?,” Duterte asked.
The policemen, PO1 Jonry M. Amper, PO1 Marichel Contemplo and PO3 Democrito Polvorosa Jr. were abducted separately late last year.
Amper was taken in Malimono town in Surigao del Norte last Nov. 12 while Polvorosa Jr.and Contemplo were seized in Alegria last Nov. 16.
A Mindanews report said “both where going to Barangay Pongtud for a public event activity being conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its 4Ps program, in which Contemplo was supposed to speak.”
Mindanews reported that Polvorosa and Contemplo were in the police 4×2 Hilux patrol vehicle when they were flagged down between barangays San Pedro and Alipao.
Families of the abducted policemen recently sought the help of Mayor Duterte following the successful efforts of the Davao City Mayor to obtain the release of government men seized by the NPAs following failed attempts by other negotiating groups.
On Jan. 20, Duterte obtained the release of Compostela Valley provincial warden Melvin Coquilla who was abducted by the NPAs last year.
The Davao City Mayor asked the NPAs to release Coquilla for humanitarian reasons as the warden’s wife was suffering from cancer and their sons have quit their jobs to focus on the release of their father.
The NPAs accused Coquilla of abuses in the provincial jail and involvement in the supply of drugs to inmates in the provincial jail, charges which were flatly denied by the warden.
Duterte asked higher authorities to investigate the charges against the warden.
The case of the three Surigao policemen was referred to Mayor Duterte last year but sources close to the Mayor said he refused to intervene initially to allow local negotiators to work on the release.
“Ayaw ni Mayor na ma-offend yong local negotiators kasi sa labas na ito ng Region XI where he is the peace and order council chairman,” the source said.
Duterte, however, was moved by the appeal of the wives of the abducted policemen who said their children have been suffering because of their fathers’ absence.
The Davao City Mayor has promised to work on the release of the hostages for the sake of their children.
Duterte, who himself was held hostage by the NPAs in 1988 when he was campaigning for Mayor of Davao City, had previously worked on the release of other hostages captured by the Communist rebels.
The Communist rebels, however, have shown their trust on the Davao City Mayor, who as a public prosecutor of the city before he became Mayor, reportedly showed fairness in handling the cases against captured NPAs.
“I never agreed to the “planting” of evidence against the rebels and I personally asked the judge to dismiss the case during the instances where government had very weak evidence,” Duterte once said of his handling of the cases against captured NPA members.
Over the years, Duterte had served as the “go-to” political leader when government men, soldiers and policemen were abducted by the NPAs.
Duterte said the national government must give serious efforts in finding ways to resolve with finality the 42-year-long Communist insurgency in the country, the longest in Asia.
“Government has two choices, we either kill all of them or we talk to them,” he said.
“Killing all of them is obviously not an acceptable option because after all these are our fellow Filipinos. So the best way is to talk to them,” he said.
Duterte, who is being convinced by several sectors to consider running for President, had previously said that if he were President of the Philippines, he would invite the rebels to work with him in government, provided that they will agree to lay down their arms.
“These people are fighting for a cause they believe in. Who knows, their ideas may yet help build a nation where people will be united once and for all. This is the best legacy we could leave to our children,” he said.
Duterte said that if after the offer of reconciliation, some of the rebels would choose to continue to take up arms, then government has to pursue and neutralize them.