DAVAO CITY – After almost a month, the New People’s Army (NPA) Comval-North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command today released Compostela Valley Provincial Rehabilitation Center Jail Warden Jose Melvin Coquilla to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte around 1:30 p.m in Barangay Casoon in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province.
Duterte turned over Coquilla to Compostela Valley Vice Governor Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora at about 2:30 p.m at the ComVal provincial capitol where the jail warden also reunited with his family.
The release was earlier than the 72 hours given by the mayor for the rebels to release Coquilla. On Saturday afternoon, Duterte demanded the NPAs to release Coquilla, who was snatched by the NPA rebels from his carwash near his residence on December 23, 2014. Coquilla was supposed to celebrate his birthday on Sunday (January 18).
The mayor’s demand follows a meeting with the wife of Coquilla, Lijobeth, who requested Duterte to help in facilitating the release of her husband. Lijobeth met the mayor on Saturday at the Ateneo de Davao University after the chief executive forum with students.
Duterte had been facilitating the release of abducted soldiers or police in the region for many years. In fact, he already jokingly complained making himself as the “pulot boy” of the NPAs.
In his statement, Duterte said Coquilla can ask for an investigation from his superiors pertaining to allegations on drugs in order to be heard. The mayor said Coquilla had admitted that 50 percent of the cases facing the jail mates are drugs. “Indirectly there are really illegal drugs,” he said.
On the other hand, Zamora said there will be an investigation on the allegations and reforms must be done.
However, Zamora said they will allow Coquilla to rest first. Zamora also thanked the mayor for his intervention on Coquilla’s safe release.
Earlier, the mayor said it is no longer healthy for Coquilla to be separated from his family.
Duterte said Coquilla’s abduction already took toll on the lives of wife and children. He said he might be forced to bring Coquilla’s wife and children to them if the rebels would not heed the call for the jail warden’s freedom.
“The rebel movement has to choose either they release Coquilla or I bring his family to them. I hope I have made myself clear,” Duterte said.
He said the accusations by the rebels against Coquilla remains to be proven.Duterte said the rebels could have considered Coquilla’s right to be heard.
He said the right to be heard ought to be inherent in any organization be it in government, and in private association.
“The right to be heard is a very important right of every individual,” Duterte said.
On Saturday, Lijobeth had told the mayor she is suffering from cancer and her husband’s abduction is affecting her health. She also said that their son resigned from his job because of the family’s situation.
Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s Comval-North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command had earlier said Coquilla was taken into custody by the NPA in order to subject him to an investigation to determine his individual culpability with respect to the complaints lodged against him before the People’s Democratic Government by jail inmates and their families.
Francisco said the complaints against Coquilla include his willful negligence in the supervision of inmates and his direct and indirect, overt and covert participation of drug trade and drug use inside the Comval jail.
However, since almost a month of finding no hard evidence on the accusation against Coquilla, Duterte said it was better for them to release the jail warden.
After the release, Coquilla and the family begged off to be interviewed.