KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 12 August) — Close to a hundred residents from eight villages here marched the streets along the national highway on Monday, demanding that the communist guerillas leave them so they could live ‘peacefully’.
Based on the pamphlets distributed along the streets, the rally had the support of City Mayor Joseph Arellano Evangelista and the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion.
The Army in North Cotabato said elements of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) have been monitored to have established mass bases in the villages of Santo Nino, Linangkob, Ginatilan, Sikitan, Katipunan, Gayola, San Roque, and San Isidro.
The rally participants gathered near a commercial bank and started to march the streets, at around 8:30 a.m., towards the city plaza. They later moved to the city gymnasium for a short program.
When one of the participants was interviewed by Ronda FM Kidapawan News Patrol, he said elements of the 72nd IB invited them to join a “people’s march.”
A farmer from Barangay Santo Nino who requested media not to identify him said he joined the rally to shoo the NPA out of their village.
“Their (NPA’s) presence in our village give us chills. We live in fear, most of the time. Now we want them out from our place so we could sleep without fear of being subjected to harassments,” the farmer said in Cebuano.
Lt. Col. Rhodjun Rosales, commander of the 39th Infantry Battalion, said the rally was proof the people have spoken against the rebels.
“It is high time na nangyayari ito. Kasi nga, nadeklara ang NPA na isang communist terror group sa Pilipinas (It is high time this is happening because the NPA has been declared as a terror group in the Philippines), Rosales said.
Rosales stressed the rally came as an offshoot of Executive Order 70 that President
Duterte issued on December 4, 2018, EO 70, “institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, creating a national task force to end local communist armed conflict, and directing the adoption of a national peace framework.”
“We are actually inviting local guerillas in our areas of responsibilities to come to a table where they could negotiate with the government for a peaceful resolution of conflict,” he explained.
Rosales named the NPA leaders he wants to meet, among them Ka Jasmine, Ka Deborah, Chuy, and other leaders of the NPA Front 51 of the NPA Front 72 Far South Mindanao Regional Command.
Reports from the Army said Ka Jasmine is the commander of NPA Front 51; that Chuy operates in the hinterlands of Magpet, Arakan, Antipas, and President Roxas, all in North Cotabato.
Rosales also named Norma Capuyan, chair of the Apo Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato, a people’s organization, along with the NPA leaders.
The 39th IB’s area of responsibility includes Makilala and Tulunan in North Cotabato; Columbio in Sultan Kudarat; and the whole province of Davao del Sur.
The city of Kidapawan where the anti-NPA rally was held has been classified by the 39th IB as ‘area of interest.’ (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)