GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/18 July) – At least 13 alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, including a “child warrior,” have surrendered to police and Army personnel in South Cotabato province following a series of negotiations.
Lt. Col. Barney Condes, chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-12’s mobile force battalion (RMFB), said the rebels separately yielded in the past three weeks along with several firearms and landmines in the municipalities of Lake Sebu, Surallah and Tampakan towns.
They were formally presented by the PRO-12 to South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. at the provincial capitol on Wednesday.
Condes said the returnees, which included a squad leader and two team leaders, were formerly under the Platoons Samsung, Roxas Range and Cherry Mobile of the NPA Fronts 73 and 71.
He said Front 71 operates in the northeastern boundaries of Tampakan town in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.
Front 73, which is considered the biggest NPA unit in Region 12, is based in the western side covering South Cotabato’s upper valley area and the municipalities of Senator Ninoy Aquino and Kalamansig in Sultan Kudarat, he said.
A report released by PRO-12 said the rebels, mostly from the Blaan tribe and with the youngest at just 16-years-old, were from Sitio Datal Ligaw, Barangay Tasiman in Lake Sebu; Sitio Lamlona, Barangay Little Baguio in Surallah; and, Barangay San Isidro in Tampakan.
The surrender was facilitated by teams from the Regional Intelligence Unit-12, RMFB-12, Philippine National Police Intelligence Group, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency-12, South Cotabato police’s intelligence branch and the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB).
Alias “Boy,” one of the group’s team leaders, said they decided due to the uncertainty of their cause and the difficult situation in the mountains.
“We’re already tired and had nothing to eat,” the 46-year-old returnee, who spent 20 years as an NPA regular, said in a press conference.
Condes said the surrenderers were part of the NPA unit that clashed with troops from the 27IB in Sitio Pangi, Barangay Lunen in Tupi town last June 17. It resulted in the killing of a suspected rebel and the arrest of three others.
Three days after the encounter, he said the group issued surrender feelers, prompting them to initiate negotiations through an agent.
“They actually had nowhere to go after the encounter so they just decided to surrender,” he said.
During the negotiations, Condes said the rebels were mainly encouraged by the assistance that they could get from the national government if they would surrender and lay down their firearms.
The group surrendered an M14 rifle, M1 Garand rifle, four caliber .45 handguns, a homemade caliber .38 revolver, assorted bullets and two improvised landmines.
The police official said the recovery of the landmines is considered “a major gain for the government,” considering the potential damage that they could inflict on troops and vehicles.
“This means that there are trained bomb-makers among the surrenderers,” he said.
Condes said they will submit the firearms and landmines to the regional police’s crime laboratory for examination and validation.
He said the returnees will also undergo debriefing and background checks as part of their surrender process.
Gov. Tamayo said the provincial government will immediately process the evaluation and enrollment of the surrenderers to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
Under the program, he said they stand to receive immediate cash, reintegration and livelihood assistance as well as remuneration for the surrendered firearms and weapons.
“These will be enough for them to start new lives with their families,” he said.
The governor, who chairs the provincial E-CLIP committee, said the returnees may also avail of housing assistance and skills training. (MindaNews)