GENERAL SANTOS CITY: Thirteen more members of New People’s Army (NPA) units operating in the hinterlands of South Cotabato and the neighboring provinces surrendered on Monday to government authorities and local officials.
The rebels formally renewed their allegiance to the government and laid down their firearms in a simple ceremony held at the South Cotabato gymnasium and cultural center in Koronadal City on Monday afternoon.
Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the surrenderers are former cadres of field units under the guerrilla fronts 72 (Alip) and 73 (Musa) of the NPA-Far South Mindanao Region.
He said Front 72 operates in the tri-boundaries of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur while Front 73 moves in the upper valley area of South Cotabato.
The rebels yielded an M16A1 Elisco 5.56 Armalite rifle, an M1 Springfield Armory Garand rifle, a Carbine rifle, an Uzi sub-machine pistol, assorted ammunition, unexploded ordnance or improvised explosives and components, various subversive documents, and flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.
The official said the rebels mainly decided to yield due to their difficult situation in the mountains as a result of the expanded “intelligence-driven internal security operations” of police and military units.
“They were also convinced with the commitment and efforts of the national government to deliver various services and development initiatives to far-flung communities,” he said in a report.
He was referring to the initiatives of the provincial and municipal task forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC).
In one of the service caravan and community outreach conducted by the Provincial Task Force ELCAC, Siason said an alias “Jeff” approached and tipped them about their intention to surrender.
He said they initiated talks with some members of the group during the outreach activities in the upland villages of Tampakan and Banga towns, and in Koronadal City.
Siason said they accepted the surrenderers on Monday morning and endorsed them to the provincial government of South Cotabato, through Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., after a thorough evaluation and validation.
Tamayo lauded the decision of the rebels to surrender and committed to provide them with the necessary assistance as they return to normal lives with their families.
He said they will be enlisted into the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program so they can avail of livelihood and other support assistance from various government agencies.
During the ceremony, the provincial government released an initial financial assistance of PHP10,000 each to the returnees.
They also received an additional PHP10,000 each in cash assistance from the Philippine National Police, PHP10,000 incentive for every surrendered firearm, PHP3,000 in grants each under the assistance to individuals in crisis situation of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, family food packs and grocery items.
The event was joined by Police Regional Office-12 director Brig. Gen. Michael John Dubria, DSWD-12 director Cezario Joel Espejo and the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Joel Mamon.
Siason said the surrender of the 13 rebels, which coincided with the 52nd founding anniversary of the NPA, only shows the group’s diminishing influence and strength.
“This is a stab against the back of the leaders of communist terrorist group. Instead of celebrating their founding anniversary with ambuscades and other terroristic acts, their remnants are returning to the folds of the law after realizing that their promises are nothing but lies,” he said.
He called on other remaining active NPA regulars in the province and the neighboring areas “who are still fighting for their false ideology to just lay down their arms and enjoy peace and harmony in the presence of their families.”
Founded on March 29, 1969, by the collaboration of Jose Maria Sison and former members of the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan led by Bernabe Buscayno, the NPA has since waged a guerrilla war based on the Maoist strategy of protracted people’s war.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.