80 alleged NPA rebels yield in Bukidnon

MARAMAG, Bukidnon (MindaNews/15 November) – Eighty alleged members of the New People’s Army today surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion in this town.

The surrenderees, led by Benjamin Salusad alias Nonong, also reportedly turned in 25 high-powered firearms.

Officials from the Eastern Mindanao Command and the 4th Infantry Division witnessed the surrender ceremony.

Salusad was allegedly a top commander of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 6 operating in the town of San Fernando, Bukidnon and nearby towns as well.

Of the other supposed surrenderees, 31 were said to be fulltime fighters and 49 were members of the Milisya ng Bayan (People’s Militia). Seventy of them were males.

The surrenderees belong to the Tigwahanon, Matigsalog and Manobo tribes of San Fernando.

Salusad and his group yielded seven M-16s, five AR-18s, one M-14, two Browning Automatic Rifles, six Carbine and three Garand rifles, and one Thompson. They also surrendered rifle magazines, ammunition and a Claymore mine.

Salusad said he spent 18 years in the NPA but decided to surrender after sensing that he seemed to be going nowhere.

“Our only hope with our surrender is that we would have hope in our struggle for our claim to our ancestral domain and that the government would be able to help us,” he said.

Lieutenant General Arthur I. Tabaquero, commander of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command said it was the first time that a group that big surrendered in the area.

“The turn of events will have a huge impact on the NPA operating in the area. This is a big reduction in the number of rebels and their ability to wage attacks on military and civilian installations and the populace. We hope that with the support of the provincial government we would be able to guide them back to a normal life with the rest of the community,” Tabaquero said.

Tribal leaders of San Fernando headed by Supreme Datu Okit Onlas reportedly initiated the negotiation for Salusad’s surrender.

Major General Victor A Felix, Commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division said: “We are happy to welcome our brothers and sisters who have finally decided to return to the fold of our government. The large number of surrenderees will surely have a negative impact on the NPA’s morale. And we believe that there will be more NPA rebels who will go down the mountains as they all realize that their government is truly working for the Filipino people.” (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)