MANILA, Philippines - The four policemen who were abducted by communist rebels in Surigao del Norte early this month were freed by their captors Tuesday afternoon.
Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Cpt. Alberto Caber said the four law enforcers were freed in an undisclosed location in Agusan del Norte.
“The four policemen will undergo medical check-up and stress debriefing,” he said in a text message.
The military and communist rebels have declared a five-day ceasefire in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte to facilitate the release of four policemen kidnapped by the New People’s Army (NPA) early this month.
Caber said the ceasefire took effect on July 27 and covered the towns of Placer, Bacuag, Tubod, Gigakit, Claver and Alegria all of Surigao del Norte and Santiago, Kitcharao and Jabonga all of Agusan del Norte.
He said the ceasefire temporarily prevents the military from conducting deliberate offensive operations against the NPA.
The ceasefire, however, does not cover movements or activities supporting agencies involved in peace, development and humanitarian assistance programs.
Maria Malaya, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) Northeast Mindanao, said the ceasefire “creates a favorable condition for the safety and security” of the captured policemen.
“This ceasefire order shall entail the temporary cessation of any military actions by concerned NPA units,” Malaya said in a statement.
NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the release of the four policemen was meant to be “a goodwill gesture” to promote the peace talks with the government.
The policemen, identified as PO3 Vice Calubag Concon, PO1s Rey O’niel Morales, Joen B. Zabala and Edito Roquino were kidnapped during an NPA raid on a police station in Alegria, Surigao del Norte last July 10.
Malaya said the declaration of ceasefire had been requested by the families of the four policemen, whom she described as “prisoners of war.”
“All concerned NPA units, however, must maintain (their) active-defense mode within the given timeframe of the ceasefire, and must not hesitate to defend (their) own forces and the masses within the area whenever a serious breach occurs,” she added.
Malaya said NPA units have been ordered to relocate to a secure location after the release of the four policemen.
Peace talks between the government and the communist rebels reached an impasse after the two sides had failed to reach a consensus on the NDF’s demand to free jailed NPA leaders with criminal charges.