19 Lumad NPA members surrender

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 December) — At least 19 more members of the New People’s Army (NPA) from three guerrilla fronts operating in parts of Region 12, all of them Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) surrendered this week to police units in South Cotabato province, Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said on Friday.

Three of those who surrendered were women.

Siason said Friday the rebels decided to surrender following a series of negotiations with elements of the Police Regional Office-12’s intelligence unit (RIU) and the provincial police mobile force company.

He said 11 of them were previously under the Guerilla Front 53, seven under Front 73 and one under Front 56 of the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Region.

Front 73 operates in the boundaries of South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces while Fronts 53 and 56 are all based in North Cotabato area.

The rebels, who were formally received by South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. at the provincial capitol in Koronadal City on Friday morning, surrendered in batches in undisclosed locations in South Cotabato and North Cotabato on Dec. 10 and 12, he said.

“This is a joint effort of the RIU, South Cotabato police and the provincial government,” Siason said in a press conference.

The police official said two of the surrenderers were former vice commanders of Platoons Samsung and Brigol under Front 73 while one was a squad leader.

The others were NPA regular cadres, political organizers and members of the “Militia ng Bayan.”

He said the returnees gave up a fragmentation grenade and eight firearms composed of an M16 Armalite rifle with 20 ammunition, a Carbine rifle with a magazine loaded with 12 live bullets, two homemade shotguns with magazines and five live bullets, a 9mm pistol, a caliber .22 homemade pistol and two caliber .38 homemade pistols.

Siason said the rebels decided to surrender due to their difficult situation in the mountains and the uncertainty of their cause.

He said some of them were forced to join the NPA after allegedly being duped by their recruiters and promised various benefits that were never realized.

Siason said the returnees, majority of whom were residents of North Cotabato, were also encouraged with the improved situation in their communities and the changes in the system of governance in South Cotabato.

“They saw how the provincial government assisted the previous returnees so they chose to also surrender here,” he said.

In an interview with reporters, alias “Edgar,” a former vice commander of Platoon Brigol, said there’s no reason for them anymore to continue fighting the government.

He surrendered along with his wife, who reportedly served as community organizer and recuiter for the NPA.

“Our situation was very difficult as we were always on the run and we can no longer stand fighting against our fellow Filipinos,” he said in Filipino.

Tamayo, who is on his first term as governor, said a total of 55 NPA members have surrendered in the province under his administration and more are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

Thirteen rebels surrendered last July and was followed by 19 last November and four early this month.

He said most of them have received initial financial assistance and underwent skills trainings in preparation for the upcoming release of livelihood grants under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.

“We will make sure that these surrenderers will receive all the benefits due to them under the E-CLIP,” Tamayo said. (MindaNews)