ZAMBOANGA CITY: Fourteen disgruntled communist New People’s Army (NPA) regulars and militiamen have surrendered to government authorities and brought in 10 assorted firearms in the Zamboanga Peninsula and Misamis Occidental province, military officials said Thursday.
Brig. Gen. Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade, said the nine NPA fighters and five militiamen belong to a guerrilla unit operating in Misamis Occidental and parts of Zamboanga del Norte.
They surrendered following negotiations conducted by the Army’s 10th Infantry Battalion (IB), Nicolas said, adding their identities were not divulged for security reasons.
According to Nicolas, rebel militiamen under the NPA’s “Yunit Milisya” are utilized as immediate reinforcement in the rebels’ tactical offensives.
Equipped with low-power firearms, Yunit Milisya members are also tasked to monitor the movements and activities of the government forces, the Army official said.
Nicolas said the surrenderers are between 20 to 46-years-old.
One of them, only identified by the military as “Loloy,” had been in the communist rebel movement for almost 26 years.
Nicolas said Loloy helped the military locate an arms cache containing high-power firearms, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and ammunition.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, 10IB commander, said one of the surrenderers, identified only as ‘Brando’, bared that the NPA recruited him when he was only 17.
“This is a clear manifestation of the continued violations of the CTG on the protection of children’s rights in armed conflict,” Tiongson said.
Lt. Col. Filven Noche, 44IB commander, said the GF Flex-A members who surrendered to his command were identified as the following: Jonas, 31; Tiling, 28; and, Reden, 31.
“We are still exerting all effort through the active involvement of the Local Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (LTF-ELCAC) in the possible surrender of the remnants of the defunct GF Flex-A,” Noche said.
The GF Kara member who surrendered to the 53IB is identified as Bea, 23, from the town of Lapuyan, Zamboanga del Sur.
Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, 53IB commander, said the series of NPA surrenders was the result of the “continuous conduct of peace-building efforts through our mass base operations”.
Herrera said the NPA surrenderers are being enrolled under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) and will be entitled to receive immediate cash and livelihood assistance amounting to PHP65,000, as well as firearm remuneration for those who are eligible.
For Nicolas, the decision of NPA rebels under the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee to return to normal life meant that the regional party apparatus of the NPA is on “the verge of its total destruction”.
Nicolas said most of the NPA surrenderers also revealed that they were constantly on the run without food for days because their former mass supporters are already refusing to participate or contribute to the “terroristic acts of the” NPA.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Generoso Ponio, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division commander, urged the remnants of the WMRPC to give the government’s peace efforts a chance.
“You have all heard or witnessed the improvement of the lives of your former comrades who are now enjoying quality time with their families, as well as, the benefits from the government in order to assist them to get back to their own feet as productive members of the society,” Ponio said.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.