Commies release army soldier held captive for 49 days

By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Regional Editor-Caraga

SAN Luis, Agusan del Sur––A government soldier who joined the armed forces as integree of Moro National Liberation Front was freed yesterday by the New Peoples Army rebels after 40 days of captivity.

San Luis Mayor Ronald Corvera who led the tedious month -long negotiation said captors belonging to NPA Front 88 finally agreed to release Corporal Salman Abbas even without the original demand to free him in exchange for the freedom of Manobo tribal chieftain detained at the provincial jail for arson charges filed by a logging firm.

Abbas is the second Muslim Army soldier freed by communist guerrillas after they were abducted by NPA rebels in the hinterlands of San Luis, once the hotbed of communist armed struggle during the logging boom in the early 1980s.

Corvera was instrumental in the release of Corporal Jawad Awadi who was abducted by the same NPA unit in July 2011 after two days of captivity. The crisis management committee led by the mayor also worked out for the successful release of four militiamen in April this year.

Abbas was caught by NPAs manning a checkpoint along an old logging road in Mahayahay village in August 13 while he was on his way towards the town poblacion to buy food supplies for the detachment of militiamen which he manned in nearby Binacalan village.

He said he was treated well by his captors who regularly conducted physical check up by NPA medics and provided him decent food while in captivity. “I felt that their good treatment is a manifestation about their respect to Comprehensive Agreement for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”

He admitted his captors were so kind to him that they allow him to talk to his wife twice over the mobile phone to assure that he was in good hands of the NPA rebels. He said he was given due consideration to talk to his wife who has heart ailment.

Corvera said the communist guerrillas led by a certain Ka Antoy agreed to release Abbas since the captive did not commit any wrongdoing and had no records of abuse of civilians in the remote villages where his military detachment operates.

The mayor said his persistent appeal to the NPA rebels to free Abbas bore fruit without the earlier demand after several exchanges of communications through mobile phones since the day the Army soldier was abducted.

Corvera, together with town councillor Atheng Peteila who is a Muslim, Josefina Bajade, vice chair of Provincial Crisis Management Committee and other members of local crisis management committee, personally fetched Abbas in an undisclosed meeting place in the hinterlands where a simple hour-long program was held before the formal turnover of the captive.

“The turnover was legal because both parties signed a document to attest my release,” Abbas said expressing in a teary mood.

The mayor was so committed to work out for Abbas release that he assured the soldier’s wife that he will resign from his post if nothing happens in the final negotiation. “I was very optimistic for his release since the soldier do not have any complaints from civilians.”

Maj. Noli Kanashiro, executive officer of 26th Infantry Battalion, lauded the NPA for its good conduct by respecting the rights of the captive soldier. “Through mutual respect for human rights as cited in CARHRIHL, we could ease tension in the ongoing insurgency conflict,” he said. He however said the NPA rebels are still answerable for the crime of abduction.

Kanashiro said Abbas will undergo psychological debriefing for two days before he could return to his duties.

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