Efforts to resume peace talks between the government and communist rebels got a boost Friday when Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go personally met New People’s Army (NPA) members for the handover of a police captive in North Cotabato.
Go went to Sitio Apog-Apog, Barangay Panaka, Magpet early morning and fetched police inspector Menardo Cui, who has been a prisoner of war (POW) of the communist group since December 2017.
The SAP then accompanied Cui to the Police Regional Office (PRO) XI in Camp Catitipan, Davao City.
Cui, his mother and his superiors, PRO XI Regional Director Manuel Gaerlan and PRO XII Regional Director Marcelo Morales, had a tearful reunion at the camp.
Cui was treated well by his captors, according to the secretary.
“Ang importante na naibalik natin na safe, at tsaka hindi naman daw s’ya nasaktan. Maganda naman daw ‘yung pagtrato sa kanya dun sa bukid,” said Go.
[What’s important is that we got him back safe, and he said he was never hurt, that he was treated well in the hinterlands.]
Unfortunately, Cui’s wife died of cancer before he was released.
“Ang nakakalungkot lang po kase hindi na n’ya naabutan ang kanyang misis, nagkasakit pala ng cancer nung panahon nung in captivity s’ya,” SAP said. “So sabi ko sa kanya, unahin nya muna bisitahin ‘yung puntod ng kanyang misis. At unahin mong asikasuhin ‘yung mga anak mo. Bumawi ka muna.”
[It’s just unfortunate that he was not able to see his wife, who fell ill of cancer during the time he was in captivity. So I told him to visit his wife’s grave first. And take care of his children first. Make up for the lost time.]
In an interview, Cui expressed his gratitude to the Office of the President (OP) and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President (OSAP) for facilitating his release and giving him an opportunity to be with his family again.
“Nagpapasalamat po ako kay President Duterte sa kanyang tulong sa akin, salamat po, Mr. President,” the police inspector said. “My heartfelt thanks po kay Sec. Bong Go, s’ya po personal ang pumunta sa akin, kumuha po sa akin dun sa bundok. Sir, maraming, maraming, maraming salamat po.”
[I’m also grateful to President Duterte for extending his help, thank you, Mr. President. My heartfelt thanks to Sec. Bong Go, he personally went to fetch me in the hinterlands. Thank you so much.]
Cui will undergo debriefing, as well as medical check-ups before returning to duty.
Go promised to assist Cui and his family.
“Sabi ko sa kanya kung ano mang kelangan n’ya para maka adjust muna s’ya bago s’ya makabalik sa trabaho,” Go said. “Willing naman po akong tumulong, bigay lang ako ng konting tulong para mapasyal naman nya ang kanyang anak sa ngayon.”
[I just told him that (he can ask me for) whatever he needs, so he can adjus before he goes back to work. I’m willing to help him; I’ll give him assistance so he could spend his time well with his children.]
Meanwhile, Go reiterated the government’s desire to put an end to the rift between the government and the NPA.
Any sincere move to resume the peace talks is welcome, said the secretary, .
“Sinabi naman po ng ‘Exodus For Peace’ sabi nila nanawagan sila na sincere daw po sila, so sabi ko naman po ‘kung sincere kayo, mas sincere po ang ating pangulo,'” he said.
[‘Exodus For Peace’ said they are sincere in calling for (resumption of peace talks), so I said, ‘if you’re sincere, more so is the president.'”]
Go explained that with the help of Local Government Units (LGU), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the peace panel under the leadership of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza, conditions may be agreed upon by the NPA and the government in order to reach a true and lasting peace in the country.
The SAP added that he is not an authorized representative of the government peace panel, but he will make sure the requests made will reach the President.
“Tapos na po yung Bangsamoro Organic Law o dating BBL, sana po ay tuloy-tuloy na yung kapayapaan with the Muslim rebels at ito namang sa left naman po ang sana susunod po,” he said.
[The Bangsamoro Organic Law or the former BBL has been ratified, we’re hoping it will finally bring peace with the Muslim rebels and now, hopefully, peace with the left will follow.]
Go recounted to the rebels the days when the president, then mayor of Davao City, would visit the NPA camps without aid of security guards.
“Ibig sabihin, malaki po ang tiwala n’ya sa inyo (NPA), kase po kahit dalawa lang kami, walang security, walang baril o ano pa man, ay pinagkatiwala n’ya ang buhay n’ya sa inyo,” Go said, adding that in turn, the NPA should trust President Duterte as well in his promises to put the Filipino people’s best interests at heart.
[It just means that he trusts you (NPA), because even with just the two of us and without security, guns or anything, he entrusted his life to you.]
“Kita n’yo ngayon ang nangyari sa Bangsamoro Organic Law, nangako s’yang pipirmahan n’ya in 48 hours, natupad n’ya ‘to kahapon. Pinirmahan n’ya kaagad kase gusto n’ya po ng kapayapaan.”
[You saw what happened with the Bangsamoro Organic Law, he promised to sign it into law in 48 hours, he fulfilled that promise yesterday, he signed it as soon as possible because he wants to have peace.]
“Pinili n’yo s’ya bilang lider, suportahan natin s’ya kase alam ko po very sincere s’ya. Wala naan ibang magiging pangulo na makakausap mo at madali n’yong abutin,” he said.
[You chose him to be a leader, let’s support him because I know he’s sincere. There is no other president whom you can talk to and whom you can reach anytime.]