GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 June) – Thirty-two more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels operating in the hinterlands of South Cotabato province formally surrendered on Tuesday to government authorities and local officials.
The rebels formally laid down their firearms and renewed allegiance to the government in a ceremony spearheaded by the joint provincial and municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) in Tantangan town, South Cotabato.
Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the returnees were formerly under the Guerilla Front 73 (Musa) of the NPA-Far South Mindanao Region, which operates in parts of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.
He said they were led by a vice platoon commander and finance officer of a unit based in the quad-boundaries of Koronadal City and the municipalities of Tantangan, Banga and Norala in South Cotabato.
The returnees were listed as residents of Sitio Matapol, Barangay Simsiman in Norala town and, Purok 9, Sitio El Nap, Barangay Dumadalig and Sitio Mayada, Barangay Libas in Tantangan, South Cotabato.
Siason said the surrender was a joint effort of the South Cotabato Police Provincial Office, Police Regional Office (PRO)-12’s intelligence unit and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
These were supported by the local governments of South Cotabato and Tantangan and other members of the TF-ELCAC, he said.
He cited their engagements with concerned stakeholders, especially community and barangay officials as well as other rebel returnees.
“This is a continuing process and we’re expecting more rebels to surrender in the coming days,” Siason said in a press conference.
Seven of the surrenderers initially signified to yield last May 26 while 13 others followed on May 29. Their number increased to 32 on Tuesday.
The group voluntarily yielded 20 high and low-powered firearms, explosives as well as subversive documents and materials.
Since May 15, a total of 89 NPA combatants from Guerilla Fronts 72 and 73 have surrendered in parts of South Cotabato.
South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr., who personally welcomed the returnees, assured the provincial government’s full support for their reintegration in local communities, especially in terms of livelihood.
He said they will evaluate and process their enrollment into the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which will provide them with various assistance packages from government agencies.
The governor said the provincial government will provide them with initial financial assistance of P20,000 each.
This was on top of the assistance that they will get under the E-CLIP and the firearms remuneration program, he said.
“Rest assured that we’re always ready to welcome and help you become part again of our communities,” Tamayo said.
The municipal government of Tantangan, through Mayor Benjamin Figueroa Jr., released an initial cash assistance of P5,000 each to the surrenderers.
The mayor said they will assess other means to help the returnees, especially in terms of sustainable livelihood. (MindaNews)