Operating troops of 3rd Special Forces Battalion recovered three high-powered firearms on the tip given by a former NPA supporter in Sitio Hugmakan, Barangay San Juan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur on Aug. 21.
1Lt Krisjuper Punsalan, the Civil- Military Operations officer of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, said alias Sion, a former Milisya ng Bayan member, pointed to the arms cache where soldiers found three .30 caliber Garand rifles.
According to Sion, the firearms were buried in February this year, two days after the New People’s Army released 14 hostages, two Army enlisted personnel and 12 Cafgu Active Auxiliaries. Reportedly, Bensing Maco, an NPA leader, ordered him to hired the firearms.
“Our commander told me to hide them because they no longer have any fighter who will carry the firearms because most of them already surrendered,” he said. “They also had few bullets left that’s why the rifles were buried for safekeeping.”
Sion surrendered to the same battalion on Aug. 13, 2019 after witnessing the continuous exploitation by the NPA for his fellow Manabos. He said they could no longer tend to their farms because they were always doing some errands for the NPA.
“We also fear for our safety because we might get caught in the encounter (between soldiers and NPAs),” he said.
Lt. Col. Joey Baybayan, commanding officer of the 3SFBn, said the rebel population has decreased due to the series of surrenders and casualties they incurred in previous skirmishes.
“With few remaining members, these terrorist NPAs are constantly moving to evade our operating troops. That is why they chose to hide their firearms so that they could easily blend with the community when cornered,” he said.
Col. Allan Hambala, 401st Infantry Brigade commander, said the government already enhanced the comprehensive local integration program to make the transition of former rebels easier as they go back to their normal lives.
“This is the best time to avail such opportunity for safety and holistic mainstreaming back to their communities,” he said.