By Edwin Fernandez
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao: The military’s two-pronged approach in dealing with communist combatants in the mountains of Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat has turned out to be effective, an Army officer here said Monday.
“The two-pronged approach is a continuous military pressure against rebels, and at the same time highlighting the government’s offer for them to rejoin the mainstream society peacefully,” Lt. Col Allen Van L. Estrera, Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion (37IB) commander, told reporters here in an interview Monday.
On Sunday afternoon, he said the result became evident as six regular members of communist New People’s Army (NPA) voluntarily laid down their arms and turned themselves in to the Kalamansig Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the 37IB during ceremonies held at the town government center.
Estrera said the six rebels also turned in 10 firearms, including one Carbine rifle, two 12-gauge shotguns, three .45 caliber pistols, one 9mm submachine pistol, three .38 caliber revolvers, and assorted ammunition.
They were welcomed by Kalamansig Mayor Rolando Garcia who handed over financial and food assistance to the rebels.
In a phone interview, the mayor said the surrenderers will be enrolled in the government’s Expanded Comprehensive Local Integration Program for surrendering NPA rebels.
“This is to complete their return to the mainstream society, live normal lives, and be productive citizens in their communities,” Garcia said.
“The presence of Army and police forces in the communities have been helpful not only in maintaining peace and order but also in assisting rebels who wish to return to the fold of the law,” the mayor added.
Col. Eduardo B. Gubat, 603rd Infantry Brigade commander, has lauded the 37IB and the local government unit for providing the NPAs an avenue to return to their respective families with the government’s intervention.
“I urge other NPAs still up there, come down and enjoy the benefits of peace,” Gubat said.
More rebels yield
Meanwhile, seven more NPA rebels in Sultan Kudarat also decided to return to the fold of the law after being convinced of the government’s sincerity in helping them through various government agencies.
Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, said the surrender of the seven brought to some 170 the number of NPA rebels and supporters who yielded to the military in Central Mindanao this year.
“This is a welcome development to all peace-loving communities in the region,” he said.
Uy said the seven NPA members, all coming from the Manobo Dulangan indigenous community, yielded Sunday before Lt. Col. Rommel Valencia, Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion commander, based in Barangay Kalawag, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.
Valencia, in his report, cited that the latest batch of NPA guerrillas opted to lay down their guns and abandon the armed struggle which they now think is a futile cause.
The seven NPAs who operated in the mountains of Isulan and Bagumbayan towns also turned in 10 assorted firearms including an M14 rifle, a homemade sniper rifle, a Carbine rifle, an M79 shoulder-fired grenade launcher, six homemade pistols, and also various ammunition.
“The surrenderers were all members of the weakened Platoon My Phone of East Daguma Front, South Regional Command – Daguma, Far South Mindanao Region,” Valencia said in his report.
He said their surrender was a result of the Community Support Program (CSP) operation implemented by the 7IB with an intensified information education campaign that provided awareness to Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the mountains of Sultan Kudarat
“Ka Oyet” of Platoon My Phone, led the surrender and explained why they surrendered.
“Since we joined the movement about 10 years ago, we have no adequate rest because we were always on the run from pursuing government forces,” Ka Oyet said in the vernacular.
Valencia assured the said batch of NPA surrenderers that all benefits due for surrendering rebels will be provided by the government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
(Philippine News Agency)