Fear, hunger, and desperation drove 20 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) to surrender to the troops of the 75th Infantry Battalion in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur on June 16.
Capt. Edwin Leo Francisco, the Civil-Military Operations officer of 75th IB, said the latest batch of surrenders composed of two regular NPAs, two Sangay Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL) members, 11 Milisya ng Bayan (MB) members, and five Underground Mass Organization (Ugmo) members.
They were all part of the Guerilla Front 14 of the Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee.
The military identified the NPA members by their aliasess Tapul, James, RR, Bata, Mer, Maegan, Roy, Dodong, Ba-ang, Kaba-kaba, Botyok, Palakata, Pino, Jerry, Esidro, Estong, Rachel, Jun, Joebert, and George.
Accordingly, they brought with them 29 assorted firearms, improvised explosive devices, blasting caps, and electrical wires.
Lt. Col. Jaime Datuin, the commander of 75th IB, said the rebels are already feeling the heat of the continuing military offensives as well as the declining support by the communities. He said the fighters oftentimes go for days with little to no food at all. Many of them are sick and in need of immediate medical attention.
Alias Tapul, 46, said they were promised of a better life by the NPA but they only experienced hunger, difficulty, and constant fear. “They said they will stop government oppression and provide support to our families. But none of these ever happened,” Tapul said.
Datuin said the former rebels made the right choice.
“Now, they can start a new life with their own families,” he said.
The surrenders will be undergoing debriefing as part of their enrolment to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) where they will receive financial and livelihood assistance.
Col. Allan Hambala, who heads the 401st Infantry Brigade, said the surrenders are a huge blow to the NPA operating in Caraga.
“They are on the brink of defeat. That is why I am encouraging the remaining armed members of the CPP-NPA to heed the national government’s call for peace. Do not wait until our forces catch up with you,” Hambala warned.
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M. Gacal, the 4th Infantry Division commander, expressed confidence that more active CPP-NPA members will surrender in the coming months.
“Let us not wait for another decade before we put an end to the local communist armed conflict. Let us work together toward lasting peace and sustainable development,” Gacal said.