GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – An alleged unit leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) and his wife surrendered over the weekend to government troops based in Malapatan town in Sarangani Province following negotiations mediated by local community leaders.
Major Adolfo Espuelas Jr., commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, said Monday the surrenderees, whom he only identified as couple Oning and Wating due to security considerations, voluntarily yielded and laid down at least four firearms last Saturday to 73rd IB troops in Sitio Kiahi, Barangay Kinam in Malapatan.
He said the couple were former members of Platoon Masda of the NPA’s Front 71, which operates in the mountains of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces, and were directly under Kumander Yoyong.
Espuelas said Oning, the husband, was reportedly an assistant team leader of Platoon Masda and involved in major operations launched by the NPA unit during the past several months.
“This is a big blow for them since Oning is quite familiar with the unit’s movements and operational strategies,” he said.
The Army official said the couple supposedly decided to surrender after getting weary of their situation in the mountains and the uncertainty of the rebel movement’s cause.
The two initially approached leaders of a community-based cooperative in Sitio Kiahi in Barangay Kinam and signified their intention to yield, he said.
Espuelas said the community leaders immediately facilitated a meeting between the couple and elements from the 73rd IB detachment in Barangay Kinam, Malapatan to formalize their surrender.
During the meeting, he said the former rebels yielded a US caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle, a special rifle, caliber .22 rifle, a homemade shotgun and a fragmentation grenade.
More than a dozen NPA rebels under the Platoon Masda were reported to have surrendered to the 73rd IB troops in Sarangani Province since it launched a major offensive against the rebel unit in late January.
Following the offensives, which led to the killing of a top NPA leader in the area, the 73rd IB sent out feelers urging the rebels to surrender and take part in the national government’s reconciliation program.
“I believe the couple were among those who were enlightened by our reconciliation offer,” Espuelas said.
He added that they will enlist the couple in the national government’s integration and “Balik Baril” programs to allow them to avail of livelihood and other assistance. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)