“Dati, takot (ang nararamdaman ko sa mga NPA), dahil ang nababalitaan ko, pumapatay sila nang walang dahilan” (Before I was afraid of the NPA guerrillas, because I used to hear that they kill for no reason), said Agasen in another interview. “Nabago ‘yon nang mabihag ako. Nakita ko y’ong prinsipyo (nila) at sumusunod talaga sila sa kasunduan ng NDFP at GRP, y’ong CARHRIHL na tinatawag” (That changed when I was held as a POW. I saw that they are principled people, I saw that they follow the agreement between the NDFP and the GRP, which is called the CARHRIHL.)
The CARHRIHL is the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which was signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 1998. It covers, among other things, the treatment of POWs.
Umali, for his part, told of growing up in Rizal and hearing about the NPA all the time, but he said he never thought of the guerrillas as bad people. “Hindi tumatanim sa isip ko na masama sila, hindi” (It never crossed my mind that they were bad people, never), he said in a separate interview.
The interviews were all conducted in the privacy of a makeshift tent, with the custodial team’s members all several meters away.
The three policemen all said their custodians treated them well. Asked if there was any incident in which their custodians hurt or threatened them, they all replied in the negative.
“Ibinigay nila ang karapatan namin bilang tao” (They recognized our rights as humans), Agasen said. “Ayos naman ang pagtrato nila sa amin” (They treated us well).
Cuntapay, Umali, and Agasen also said that their nearly three months in the guerrillas’ custody has given them more insights into why there exists a group like the NPA.
“And’yan sila dahil sa hirap ng buhay” (They exist because life is difficult), Cuntapay said. “Gusto nila, pantay-pantay ang lahat ng tao sa Pilipinas” (They want equality in the Philippines.)
“Ipinaglalaban nila y’ong mga magsasaka, y’ong…mahihirap” (They are fighting for the peasantry, the poor), Umali said.
“Ipinaglalaban nila y’ong pantay-pantay na pagtingin sa mayaman at mahirap” (They are fighting for equal treatment for rich and poor people), Agasen said.
“Ang naobserbahan ko sa kanila, kung ano ang kinakain ng isa, dapat gano’n din lahat” (What I observed of them is that what one eats, everyone eats.), Cuntapay also said. “Hindi puwedeng gutom y’ong iba, y’ong iba busog: kailangan, pantay-pantay” (It is never the case that others are hungry while one is full: everyone should be equal.)
They all cite among their most unforgettable experiences while in NPA custody the difficulties of having to walk through slippery mountain routes or having to swim through rapid currents. They also recall their pleasant surprise at discovering several kinds of jungle food which they never thought was edible. Cuntapay confesses that several times he had bouts with boredom.
The three policemen said they look forward to being able to return to police duty soon.(Bulatlat.com)