Rebels released a prisoner of war as a gesture of “mercy and compassion.”
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
MONKAYO, Compostela Valley – The New People’s Army released today the jail warden it held captive for alleged drugs trade and negligence due to “humanitarian reasons.”
Jose Mervin Coquilla, who is under the custody of the NPA Comval-North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command for 28 days, was released as a “unilateral exercise of political authority, humanitarianism, and to help propel for the immediate resumption of the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-NDFP peace negotiations,” according to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Southern Mindanao, which ordered the release.
Coquilla was met by his wife and children and officers from the Compostela Valley provincial government.
His release was secured with the help of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and peace group Exodus for Justice and Peace.
Coquilla was arrested on December 23, a day before the Communist Party of the Philippines started its 10-day staggered ceasefire, in Panabo City. The warden was allegedly involved in “corrupt practices” including drugs trade and negligence inside the Compostela Valley Provincial Rehabilitation Center located in Tagum City.
In a press conference after he was released, Coquilla denied the allegations but said that “drugs are present in all jails (in the country).”
“I am willing to submit myself for an investigation,” said Coquilla
He added that he should “be given a chance to effect changes.”
According to Rubi del Mundo, NDFP spokesperson in southern Mindanao, upon Coquilla’s arrest “the People’s Democratic Government formed an investigating body to formally receive the complaints and conduct a preliminary investigation to determine the participation and culpability of respondent Coquilla.”
“Complainants filed a case against him at the People’s Democratic Government for corrupt practices, and for planning, aiding, abetting and conspiring in the commission of ferreting drugs inside the jail, of tolerating the cruel treatment and violence among inmates, and of neglecting sick prisoners of the reactionary Provincial Rehabilitation Center of Compostela Valley in his capacity as its Provincial Jail Warden since Sept. 18, 2000,” del Mundo said.
Coquilla was also accused of practicing unreasonable policies for jail visits after family of inmates complained that they are prohibited from conducting face-to-face interaction with their loved ones. Complainants from the jail also said that medical care for sick inmates is inadequate.
“While they are admitted in separate cells, sick inmates carrying contagious diseases or not are all placed in the same cells. Those with serious ailments are not immediately brought to the hospital. There are reported deaths as a result of the lack of medical treatment. Those who are lucky to be brought to the hospital have to contend with inadequate medicines,” del Mundo said.
Coquilla also “allegedly tolerated rampant illegal drug trade inside the jail. Jail guards and visitors freely sneak in illegal drugs for inmates, as body searches for visitors are not being done,” said del Mundo.
In releasing Coquilla Monday, NDF said it “suspended its judicial proceedings as a humanitarian act in response to the pleas of his family and representatives from the GPH and well-meaning individuals, and as a gesture of compassion and mercy—a message that is reverberating in the country with the recent visit of Pope Francis.” (davaotoday.com)