COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) – Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) based in Maguindanao have submitted themselves to the government Tuesday, abandoning their cause in pursuit of normal and peaceful lives.
The three officially renounced their outlaw activities in Camp Siongco of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, where they turned over two M-16 rifles, a caliber .45 pistol, an improvised explosive device and grenades.
The three were led by a certain “Jok,” said to be a former rebel cadre, a liaison officer and member of platoon central of the Daguma Range Far South Mindanao Region of the NPA, of Barangay Biarong, South Upi, Maguindanao. The two others were a certain “Tam2x,” of Keytodak, Lebak, Sultan Kudarat; and “Michael” of Ranao Pilayan, Upi, Maguindanao.
Jok said he was convinced to join the rebel organization after he saw injustices to the Lumads and the environmental degradation of the tribal communities in Daguma Range.
He admitted that they targeted to recruit Teduray-Lambangian communities as well as other tribal groups around Daguma Range during their active duty in the rebel organization. But as time went by, he said they saw no more directions in the rebel group as the government and the military have been working with the people and opened a chance for them to live a normal lives.
“It’s been a long time that we have been in the mountains. We want to live normal lives with our families, now that a localized truce is working,” said Jok.
The acceptance event was graced by the 6ID commander, Maj. Gen. Diosdado Carreon, and the head of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, Brig. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag.
Key to the negotiation for the rebels’ returning to the fold of the law is South Upi Vice Mayor Imelda Estorninos, who said that they realized that the NPA was already in their municipality when people started receiving extortion letters.
“We opened our communication to them, we talked to them and through all peaceful means, we reached to this point that they now abandoned the rebel life,” Estorninos said.
Carreon thanked the returnees for trusting the Division and assured they will be bridged to the peace packages that the government is offering to the likes of them.
Meanwhile in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, high-powered loose firearms in the hands of former rebels who are now working as banana plantation security workers were turned over to the Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) by the local government unit.
Mayor Abubakar Paglas spearheaded the activity, together with Carreon, who is also commander of the JTFC, and Brig. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade.
The firearms include 82 M-16 rifles, 27 M14 rifles, a caliber .30 machine gun, 6 M203 grenade launchers, 2 M60 general purpose machine guns, an M79 grenade launcher, and 112-gauge shotgun.
The local government of Datu Paglas has a total 97 Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary (SCAA) while La Fruitera, Inc., a banana-producing company owned by LGU-Datu Paglas, has 100 SCAAs utilizing their personal firearms in maintaining peace and security in the whole municipality.
“We fully support the national campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the government against loose firearms. We want our town to be peaceful and progressive as we continue to change this municipality from a battle area to industrial and business-oriented municipality,” said Mayor Paglas.
Carreon lauded the efforts of the troops and local officials for the successful endeavor leading towards the voluntary turnover of the loose firearms.
“I am extending my gratitude to the support of the local government of Datu Paglas as we sustain our mandates in Central Mindanao. Our SCAA as our force multiplier will continue their mandated duty in maintaining peace and security of this municipality,” he said. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)