Soldiers captured by NPA now worry over losing their job

After their release from NPA captivity where they were investigated for possible crime against the people, two AFP soldiers now face another investigation from their AFP superiors.

COMPOSTELA’S BIG GUN. Compostela Governor Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy poses to the media while holding a high-powered rifle owned by the New People’s Army during the release on May 6 of two soldiers held captive as “prisoners of war” by the guerrillas. The NPA released the soldiers to Uy in Compostela town. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Compostela, Compostela Valley — Two army sergeants held prisoners of war (POWS) by the New People’s Army (NPA) for two weeks said they were uncertain of their future after their release.

Sgt. Huberto Corbita, 47, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) K9 unit and Sgt. Napoleon Gerasmio, 41, of the Army Reserve Command, expressed doubt they’d be taken back to work by the AFP after two weeks of captivity by the NPA.

Lt. Col. Bienvenido Datuin, commanding officer of the 28th Infantry Battalion, said the two soldiers will have to undergo a thorough military investigation after two weeks in the rebels’ custody. “The decision to either let Gerasmio and Corbita resume work or not will be decided by the concerned headquarters,” he said.

He assured, though, that whatever happens, the AFP will take into consideration the service rendered by the soldiers in deciding whether or not to let them stay with the Armed Forces.

The two sergeants were separately arrested in a checkpoint mounted by the NPA at Sitio Mabatas, Upper Ulip in Monkayo town on April 24. They were released through the NPA’s custodial unit, the 5th Pulang Bagani Company (5th PBC), in barangay (village) Ngan of Compostela, Compostela Valley Province some four hours away from Davao City on Tuesday, May 6.

CHECK-UP. Dr. Daniel Lu, vice-mayor of Sto. Tomas, examines the prisoners of war Sgt. Napoleon Gerasmio and Sgt. Huberto Corbita during their release on Tuesday, May 6. Dr. Lu does not see any sign that the soldiers were maltreated. ( photos by Barry Ohaylan)

“I have been in service for 18 years. I wish to continue my work until I retire,” Corbita, said. Gerasmio who has been in the service for 21 years said he also wanted to stay with the AFP.

“If their decision will not favor me, I would look for another source of living,” Gerasmio said.

But Corbita and Gerasmio were grateful to their captors for finally freeing them. They said their release was inevitable because they knew they have not committed grave crimes against the people, which was also confirmed by the NPA after the rebel group’s investigation. The NPA also assured them that nothing bad will happen to them while under the NPA custody.

IN MOTION. Compostela Valley province Governor Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy watches as members of the New People’s Army’s 5th Pulang Bagani Company fall in and sing the Internationale after the soldiers’ release. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

“The NPA promised me that I will be freed,” Corbita said. “We were treated with the rights and privileges due us as prisoners of war,” Gerasmio said.

Gerasmio added that the NPA custodial unit always let them eat their meals first before everybody else during mealtime. “We were also provided clothes,” said Gerasmio, who only had a pair of shorts and a t-shirt when he was arrested.

Corbita said the NPA adhered to the international humanitarian law regarding the proper treatment of prisoners of war.

REUNION. Jocelyn Corbita embraces her husband, Sgt. Huberto Corbita, after he was released from 12 days of captivity by the New People’s Army. Jocelyn says she is relieved that her husband was not hurt. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Dr. Daniel Lu, conducting the medical examination on Gerasmio and Corbita during their release, confirmed.

“I don’t see any sign of physical maltreatment against them,” Lu, the vice-mayor of Sto. Tomas town, said.

Lu said he has not seen any cuts or bruises on the soldiers, and that their body movements, including their blood pressure, were normal.

One of the members of the NPA platoon said that the NPA strictly adheres to the international protocols, especially the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, in treating prisoners of war.

Col. Bien Datuin, commander of the 28th Infantry Battalion-AFP, insists there is nothing to thank the NPA for. It was the result of the military’s mounting pressure and local government efforts. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

“We have been respecting these protocols despite the GRP’s (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) continuous violation,” said the member of the 5th PBC who called himself Tim.

The Merardo Arce Command of the NPA released a statement declaring that Gerasmio and Corbita were released on humanitarian grounds. So far, the two soldiers were the latest POW the NPA’s held captive and released in an area known for its history of bloody confrontation between government troops and the Communist rebels.

On May 8 last year, the NPA released Sgt. Albert Baludoya, the Aliwagwag Cateel detachment commander of the 72nd Infantry Cadre Battalion under the AFPs 10th Infantry Division. Baludoya was held as a POW for less than a month. The NPA released him on humanitarian grounds.

HAPPY MEAL. Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy treats the released prisoners of war to a lunch. From left are Dr. Daniel Lu, Gov. Uy, Sgts. Napoleon Gerasmio and Huberto Corbita. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Compostela Valley province Governor Arturo “Chiongkee” Uy, who facilitated the release, said he’s happy that the soldiers are finally released by the NPA.

But Uy also condemned the NPA for abducting soldiers. “First, it’s very difficult for the families of the hostages. It’s a traumatic experience for them,” he said.

Although the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has tagged the Communist movement as terrorists, Uy still opted to take part in the safe release of the soldiers from their NPA captors.

“It’s a call of duty. I have to protect the lives of my constituents,” he said.

ON GUARD. Members of the New People’s Army’s 5th Pulang Bagani Company guard the area for the safe release of their captive. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

The governor also said he will do the same even for people who are not his constituents when a similar thing happens within his province.

Corbita’s wife Jocelyn thanked the NPA for freeing her husband. “I’m very happy that they did not hurt him,” she said.

LIGHT TALK. Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy (second from left) chats with a member of the New People’s Army who promptly left the area after the release. ( photo by Barry Ohaylan)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: