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NPA rebels search for safe way to free captives

LUCENA CITY — Communist rebels are in search of options to safely release what they call prisoners of war (POWs), referring to three soldiers and a policeman, amid the refusal of the armed forces to suspend military operations in areas where the captives are being held, according to communist party founder Jose Ma. Sison.

Sison, acknowledged as founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said in an online interview that the CPP and its armed component, the New People’s Army (NPA), were studying how to safely release the captives without endangering their lives and that of their rebel captors in the absence of a military cessation of offensives against the rebels.

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“There are precedents for the release of POWs to a domestic third party,” said Sison in the interview on Saturday.

“President Duterte had acted in a third party role several times when he was still a mayor,” Sison said, referring to many instances when the rebels released their captives to Mr. Duterte when he was still Davao City mayor.

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Goodwill gesture

He said rebels were committed to releasing their captives not only to heed one of four conditions set by Mr. Duterte for peace talks to proceed but also as a gesture of “goodwill and confidence” by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an umbrella organization of underground leftist groups, in relation to peace talks with the Duterte administration.

Aside from the release of captives, Mr. Duterte has also demanded a ceasefire and a stop to rebel tax collection as conditions to resume formal peace negotiations with the rebels.

Sison blamed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza and armed forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año for the delay in the release of the captive soldiers and policeman.

“They do not care about their personnel. They have no mercy for their families,” Sison said.

“They do not respect President Duterte’s desire to have these POWs freed by the NPA,” he added.

Lorenzana and Año, he said, continue to push for an all-out war against the rebels “without considering the safety and orderly release of their own men.”

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Disconnect

Sison said he believed that the military had not yet been apprised of the results of negotiations in the Netherlands between rebel and government representatives, which had led to an agreement to declare a unilateral ceasefire.

“It seems that they suffer from a disconnect in policy and action regarding confidence building measures in the peace negotiations,” he said.

Sison said the NDFP had already asked the government peace panel to work for the suspension of military operations to pave the way for the captives’ release. They are Pfc. Edwin Salan, Sgt. Solaiman Calucop, Pfc. Samuel Garay and PO2 Jerome Natividad.

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TAGS: CPP, Joma, Jose Maria Sison, New People's Army, NPA captives, Philippine peace talks, Rodrigo Duterte
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