By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines-Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-EastMinCom) Friday announced the release last Thursday of six Civilian Armed Auxiliary (CAA) who were abducted almost two months ago by Communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Agusan del Sur.
The release of the six militiamen brings down to nine – two soldiers and seven CAAs – the remaining captives still being held by the Communist insurgents.
Lt. Gen. Felimon T. Santos, AFP EastMinCom Commander, identified the freed CAAs as Jurian B. Gaviola, Marson C. Iligan, Bienvinido A. Lamion, Eddie J. Tindoy, Sanny G. Malobay and Hermito M. Iligan.
Santos said the six abducted CAAs were released by their NPA abductors through a third party facilitator and were turned over to the Army’s 401st Brigade, Fourth Infantry Division at the Headquarters of the Eighth Special Forces Company, Third Special Forces Battalion, Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), at Purok 12-A, Poblacion, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur on Thursday, February 14.
Santos said the release was brought about by the pressure of the relentless military operations to rescue the said troops.
“As of this time, our units in the area are continuously conducting military operations to rescue the remaining troops who are still being held and used as human shields and propaganda subject by the NPAs,” Santos said.
“We are assuring our communities that this, propaganda means of ‘kidnap-for-presscon’ to stop security operations, and allow them to continue conducting their recruitment, carry out atrocities against communities and to project a force to reckoned with, will not affect our effort and commitment to protect our communities and their right to live peacefully,” he added.
Santos said the released CAAs will be given time to talk with their immediate families, after which, they will undergo normal processing such as medical check-up and debriefing.
Two soldiers and thirteen 13 Cafgu members from New Tubigon Patrol base in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur were abducted by NPA terrorists on December 19, 2018.
Gacal said the release of the hostages is considered not an act of peace by the CPP-NPA but an option for survival.
“The continued detention of the hostages impeded their evasion from pursuing Army and PNP troops. Also, feeding number of hostages posed considerable drain on their food supplies,” Gacal said.
Gacal said what the CPP-NPA terrorist have done in the past 57 days is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in capitalizing hostages to repeatedly demand for ceasefire and resumption of peace talks.
“The troops were not Prisoners of War (POW), they were clear hostages and utilized as shield from the joint Army-PNP operations,” Gacal said.
“Part 4, Article 3, Section 1 of IHL (International Humanitarian Law) states that taking of hostages is prohibited at any time which includes mental torture. Also in Part 4, Article 4, Section 1 states that “persons taking no active part in the hostilities, and those placed ‘hors de combat’ are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, human rights, political convictions and their moral and physical integrity and shall be protected in all circumstances and treated humanely without any adverse distinction,” he added.
Gacal said in December 2018, the family of the kidnapped victims filed a human rights complaint with the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office-13 for the NPA’s violations of the victim’s rights particularly on the right to be visited by their loved ones or to have communications with them.
Meanwhile, the remaining hostages are expected to be released sooner. However, the release of the hostages doesn’t free the NPA terrorists from their criminal and IHL liabilities.
“My urgent concern is the physical and mental health of our CAAs. They will be undergoing medical and psychological treatment to ensure that they are in good physical and mental health.” The Board of Inquiry (BOI) will continue with their investigation to find out exact details on what really transpired for considerations and appropriate decisions of the command,” Gacal concluded.
In an earlier interview, Gacal said the military will continue with its operation to rescue the militiamen and soldiers aducted by the CNTs.
Santos made the remark after one of the soldiers abducted by the Reds allegedly made an appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte, the AFP leadership, and his superiors to immediately secure his and his companions’ release.
The soldier, identified as Pfc. Darlino Carino Jr., 29, of Upper Bicutan, Taguig City, said that he and the rest of the government troops are allegedly being treated well.
Carino asked the president and the AFP to immediately secure their release so that he and his fellow troops can be reunited with their families.
He also expressed hope that they will soon be freed so he can be with his child and celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife.
However, Santos said that despite the appeal, government will not negotiate with the terrorist to secure their release.
“The Armed Forces will continue the operation with the purpose of rescuing the kidnap victims. We will not negotiate with the terrorist,” Santos said.
“The terrorist can release them if they want to without giving any condition,” he added.