GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 June) – At least 15 alleged New People’s Army rebels turned bandits operating in the mountains of Glan town in Sarangani province have surrendered to government authorities following a series of negotiations mediated by local officials in the area.
Chief Supt. Benjardi Mantele, acting Region 12 police director, said Tuesday the surrenderees were formally presented to Sarangani officials in simple rites in Glan town on Monday facilitated by regional police and Army personnel.
He said five of the returnees, who were all residents of Barangay Datal Bukay in Glan, had surrendered last June 21 to Glan Mayor Victor James Yap and elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion.
The police official identified the surrenderees, who yielded at least four high-powered firearms, as Kumander Alejandro Tayal, Arlito Tayal, Gadne Yangon, Estrella Del Rosario and Corazon Dario, who were reportedly members of the NPA Front 71 but later left the communist cause and turned to banditry instead.
Tayal is allegedly a former unit leader of the NPA’s Front 71, which operates in the mountains of Sarangani and Davao del Sur provinces.
Mantele said 10 more members of Tayal’s group also gave up and yielded their nine firearms to Mayor Yap at around 10pm last Saturday.
The surrenderees were identified as Rogelio Tayal alias Arturo, Maricel Tayal, Vergo Yangon alias Jego, Leoncio Tayal alias Bombom, Antonio Yangon alias Cano, Jemy Pagkay, Yolly Pagkay, Dulcismo Tanap, and Glen Batuga.
“During investigation, the surrenderees admitted that they were already weary and tired of avoiding government security forces, thus, they decided to voluntarily surrender and return to the folds of the law,” Mantele said in a statement.
Sarangani Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez, who personally received the surrenderees, pledged to provide some incentives and livelihood assistance under the national government’s livelihood program for rebel returnees.
Lt. Col. Adolfo Espuelas Jr., commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, said they will enlist the surrenderees to the national government’s ongoing integration program for rebel returnees.
Under the program, he said the returnees may avail of livelihood packages and financial assistance worth P50,000 from the Social Integration Program of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Earlier this month, he said, OPAPP released some 650,000 as financial assistance for at least 13 former NPA rebels from the area who availed of the integration program.
But in a statement today, the NPA Front 71 said the alleged surrenderees were not former rebels but mostly lumad local residents.
The statement, signed by Front spokesperson Edilberto Mahusay, said the military resorted to the “old, over-used tactic of forcing lumads to surrender their arms, including those used for hunting, for a fee”.
“If Espuelas claims to have paralyzed Front 71, why does the 73rd IB continue to conduct military operations in this province?” it added, noting that Espuelas claimed 107 rebels had surrendered this year in Sarangani. (Allen V. Estabillo with a report from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)