GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 September) – Five more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in the hinterlands of Sarangani Province surrendered to government forces in the area earlier this week, bringing along several firearms issued to them by the rebel group.
Lt. Col. Edgardo de Leon, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB), said the rebels yielded and laid down their firearms in Glan town in Sarangani Wednesday after several weeks of negotiations initiated by their unit.
“We negotiated and invited them to return to the fold of law and they eventually accepted it,” de Leon said.
The Army official identified the surrenderees, who were all members of the B’laan tribe, as Manuerto Booc, 52; Bernardo Matugol, 41; Benson Labilon, 30; Pedring Mapuno, 38; and, Filbert Ontic, 28.
De Leon said the rebels are former cadres of the Guerilla Front 71 of the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Regional Command.
He said they were specifically assigned under Front 71’s Mazda Platoon led by a certain Kumander Ron-Ron that operates in the municipalities of Glan, Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani.
The former rebels, who were all listed as residents of Barangay E. Aligado in Glan town, turned in an M1 Garand rifle, a Carbine rifle, a Springfield rifle, a hand grenade and two .38 caliber pistols.
The group, along with an alleged 15 year-old NPA “child warrior” who was reportedly rescued last August 26 by Army troops in Barangay Datal Anggas in Alabel, was formally presented at around 3pm Thursday to Sarangani officials led by Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao.
Pacquiao, representing Sarangani Gov. Miguel Dominguez who was in Manila, led the ceremonial turnover of the rebels’ firearms and the renewal of their allegiance to the government at the Sarangani provincial capitol.
He turned over to the rebels at least six sacks of rice and several other food supplies from the provincial government of Sarangani.
In an interview with reporters, the group’s former squad leader Manuerto Booc said they decided to return to the fold of law after getting tired of their difficult situation as guerrillas and the supposed uncertainty of their cause.
“We just want to lead normal lives again along with our families,” said Booc, who joined the rebel movement in 1997.
De Leon said they will enlist the new surrenderees to the Social Integration Program so they could avail of various financial and livelihood assistance from the national government.
Pacquiao vowed to provide them some livelihood assistance and possible opportunities for employment.
“I’m urging all the rebels who are still out there in the mountains to lay down your arms now and give the new government a chance to prove its worth. We’re here ready to welcome you anytime and extend our help,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)