Communist rebels have freed Wednesday a government soldier they captured in the southern Philippine province of Compostela Valley, the army said.
It said Sergeant Jeric Bucio Curay was released to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who negotiated with the New People’s Army for the soldier’s freedom. Curay, a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, was captured by rebels at a checkpoint in the village of Andap in Laak town on April 4.
According to the 10th CMO Battalion, Curay was released in the village of Casoon in Monkayo town.
“Sergeant Curay was unarmed during the time of his capture. His abduction was a CARHRIHL violation. Sergeant Curay will undergo physical and psychological stress debriefing at the Camp Panacan Station Hospital for further evaluation,” it said in a brief statement released to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
CARHRIHL refers to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, the first substantive agreement by the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, signed in 1998 in The Hague.
The army quoted the soldier’s wife – who was reunited with him in Davao City – as saying that “Curay is a dedicated soldier, responsible father and a good husband.”
Kilab Multimedia also reported that the Exodus for Justice and Peace served as third-party facilitator for the safe release of the soldier. “I am so thankful that they released me and I really missed my family, my children right now,” it quoted Curay as saying.
It said Bishop Modesto Villasanta, of the EJP, praised the rebels for the release of Curay. He appealed to the government and the rebel group to resume long-stalled peace talks.
The bishop said the soldier’s wife sought help for the release of the prisoner.
“Without hesitation or doubt, we expressed to her our willingness to act as facilitator. EJP’s mandate is to actively initiate and participate in various human rights and peace efforts especially in pursuing the need for the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.”
“We believe that the on-going civil war in the country is complex and deeply-rooted. The worsening impoverishment characterized by hunger, landlessness and joblessness of the majority of the Filipino people are results of system that purports unequal distribution of wealth and resources,” he said in a separate statement to the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the resumption of the peace talks will address the systematic problems assailing the country; the problem on peace and human right abuses, the inaccessibility of justice mechanisms, and most especially, the reeling socioeconomic woes suffered by the population.
The rebels have declared Curay as prisoner of war and interrogated him to determine his involvement in “counterrevolutionary and anti-people” activities in Laak town.
The capture of Curay coincided with the NPA’s renewed campaign against the 72nd Infantry Battalion whom the rebels accused – along with the 60th Infantry Battalion – of protecting big logging firms “which have wiped out the forests of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces.”
The rebel group said the wanton destruction of remaining forest cover and unchecked commercial logging in the provinces have greatly impoverished indigenous Lumad tribesmen and peasants and have made them more vulnerable to environmental disasters and climate change. It also accused politicians and policemen as among those behind indiscriminate logging operations in eastern Mindanao. “
The NPA has previously taken soldiers as prisoners of war, but eventually freed them on humanitarian grounds.