COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 27, 2011) – Two government soldiers captured by communist rebels have been ordered released in the southern Philippines after their families appealed for mercy.
The rebels said the prisoners, Corporal Delfin Largo Sarocam and Private First Class Jayson Burgos Valenzuela, were captured April 14 in North Cotabato’s President Roxas town. The two soldiers are members of the 57th Infantry Battalion sent to fight insurgents in Mindanao.
“The release of POWs Sarocam and Valenzuela is ordered based on humanitarian grounds in consideration to the appeals made by their families for their release,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army – Merardo Arce Command.
He said the infantrymen were investigated for possible violations to human rights and international humanitarian law in the course of their combat operations against the rebel forces.
“The custodial unit of the aforementioned POWs - the Herminio Alfonso Command-Guerilla Front 53 Operations Command of the NPA - is hereby directed to undertake safe and orderly release procedures. The date and place of the release shall be subject to their determination,” Sanchez said.
The families of the soldiers earlier appealed to the military to call off operations to rescue the prisoners because it could jeopardize their safety in the hands of the rebels.
They also sent a letter to the NPA to appeal for their early release. In the handwritten letter, the families thanked the NPA for taking care of the soldiers.
“We convey to the POW families that time and again, it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines that derail the processes that could lead to the possible early and safe release of the POWs. The AFP ignores the situation of their rank-and-file, the POWs in particular, and disregards the POW families’ pleas by conducting face-saving combat-rescue operations.”
“The NPA understands the concerns of the prisoners of war’s families. Even as the AFP officialdom is more concerned with face-saving moves, the NPA continues with the processes pertinent to the POWs while cognizant of their and their families’ desires,” said Isabel Santiago, of the Herminio Alfonso Command Front 53 Operations Command.
The NPA is fighting for the establishment of a Maoist state in the largely Catholic country. (Mindanao Examiner)