76 communist rebels yield in Region 12, Davao Region

MALUNGON, Sarangani (MindaNews/28 Nov) – The surrender of at least 76 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels since the start of the year has weakened the strength of the communist movement in Region 12 and in the Davao Region, military officials here said.

Lt. Col. Victorino Seño, 1002nd Infantry Brigade deputy chief for administration, said the NPA fighters yielded along with their firearms because of the continuing military operation and the difficult life in the mountains.

“The communist rebels operating in our jurisdiction are getting weaker with their comrades getting back to the fold of the law,” he said in an interview.

No data was made available for the NPA combatants who surrendered to the brigade last year.

The Duterte administration has dangled the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) to lure communist guerrillas to abandon their armed struggle against the government.

Under the E-CLIP, each former rebel is entitled to a livelihood assistance of P50,000, immediate cash grant of P15,000 and at least P50,000 for a surrendered high-powered firearm.

Seño claimed the three active NPA fronts (71, 72 and 73) operating in the brigade’s jurisdiction “are no longer capable of mounting major attacks against government forces” in the area.

The 1002nd Infantry Brigade covers the whole of Sarangani, South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental and parts of North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The brigade, which is under the 10th Infantry Division, is composed of the 27th, 73rd and 39th infantry battalions.

Seño said that focused military operations are ongoing against the communist rebels to flush them out from the jurisdiction.

He added the military is combatting communist recruitment in the area through dialogues with the parents and the youth and by intensifying their community support program (CSP).

The CSP is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ “Oplan Kapayapaan,” the agency’s security and development support plan to counter insurgency and terror threats..

1st Lieutenant Rezel Faith Sela, 1002nd Infantry Brigade civil military officer, said the government had closed at least five Lumad schools offering alternative learning systems (ALS) to remote communities in the area.

“These ALS, influenced by the communist rebels, are indoctrinating Lumad children to overthrow the government,” she said.

In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to bomb Lumad schools, saying that the learning centers only teach children to rebel against the government.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network deplored the closure of Lumad schools implemented by virtue of an order issued by Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

In a statement, Rius Valle, SOS Mindanao spokesperson, said the “outrageous” closure of the Salugpongan schools proved that the Department of Education had failed to uphold its mandate to “promote the right of our Lumad students to education, as well as their right to protection.”

The SOS Network vehemently denied the military’s claims that the Lumad schools were breeding grounds for communist recruitment. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)