NPA frees 1st of 5 prisoners of war in Misamis Oriental

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The New People’s Army (NPA) on Monday, May 2, released the first of 5 prisoners of war (POW) abducted by the group in April when it staged road blocks in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, and Agusan del Norte.

Senior Police Officer 4 Renie Rombo was released by the NPA’s custodial force to a 3rd party facilitator, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), in Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental.

Dressed in a white T-shirt with the words "Prisoner of War" on it, Rombo was brought to the barangay basketball court, 3 kilometers from the national highway.

Present during his release were Rombo's wife Vilma and daughter Nova, as well as Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Emano and Monsignor Elmer Abacahin.

After Rombo was turned over by the NPA to the PEPP, he was taken to the Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol, where top police officials were waiting.

Rombo was also given medical checkup and was certified to be in good health.

He also shared that his captors took care of him.

“We have never hurt or tortured SPO4 Rombo, but instead we have taken great steps in assuring his health as a top priority, [since] he has hypertension,” Ka Nonoy, the leader of the NPA Custodial Force, said.

Rombo was one of the policemen abducted by the rebels when they held simultaneous road blocks across Northern Mindanao to implement its revolutionary election policies for local and national candidates.

The other prisoners of war held by the NPA – Private First Class Glen Austria, Diven Tawide of the 23rd Infantry battalion, Senior Police Officer 1 Warren Conales, and PO3 Edwin Castor – are also set to be released, according to Ka Sagi, of the NPA's Eastern Misamis Oriental-Northeastern Bukidnon command.

Rombo's release came after Emano convened the local crisis committee to facilitate talks, with Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente spearheading negotiations for the release.

Resume peace talks

As a 3rd party facilitator, the PEPP is pushing for the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines to return to the negotiating table and restart its long-stalled peace talks.

“These (peace talks) can be tackled, [and] that would lead to a peaceful and just society. That is why the PEPP supports this kind of advocacy,” Calang said.

The NPA also released a statement stating its willingness to negotiate in order to address the root cause of civil war, and pave the way for the pursuit of just and lasting peace.

“Whoever wins as president, we offer these release of POWs as proof of willingness and the wisdom of the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) to negotiate for peace," the NPA said.

“It is also our hope that, in the continuation of the peace process, the government will also release the political prisoners, especially the NDFP consultants here in Northern Mindanao: Alfredo Mapano, Pedro Codaste, and Loida Magpatoc,” it added.

The NPA has suspended its operations in 7 towns in Misamis Oriental and 3 towns in Bukidnon, and has called for a suspension of police and military operations as well.

The military, through 403rd Infantry Brigade commander Colonel Jesse Alvarez, issued a 5-day stand-down order to his troops in these towns. – Rappler.com