ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 5 May) – Seventeen alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to government forces during ceremonies at the 1st Special Forces Battalion Headquarters in Mampayag, Manolo Fortich town in Bukidnon on Tuesday, the military said.
In a press statement, the 1st SFB said the surrenderees were former combatants of the NPA’s Sub-Regional Command 4, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee. They yielded 11 firearms, eight of which high-powered, during the “Balik-Loob sa Gobyerno” program.
Lt. Col. Vercisio San Jose, 1st SFB commander, said in the statement that the rebels returned to the fold of the law “as a result of relentless pursuit by elite forces, fierce firefights, and deadly encounters every month since the start of 2021.”
He urged rebels to abandon the communist ideology and “peacefully surrender to avail of the socio-economic programs of the government.” He warned those who will refuse to lay down their firearms that government forces will be “relentless and aggressive” in hunting them down.
The statement said that among the 17 surrenderees was a female fighter and a male combatant who joined the NPA when he was only 16 years of age.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 10 provided the former rebels with family food packs, hygiene kits, kitchen utensils, sleeping kits, and substantial financial assistance.
“Every one of us deserves a life of peace, freedom, and democracy,” DSWD Regional Director Mari-Flor A. Dollaga was quoted as saying.
Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr., who donated sacks of rice and financial assistance to the former rebels, said that “their surrender is a step closer to the peace we all strive to achieve.”
“Each time the NPA wage war against the government, it’s not only the soldiers who pay the price but every Filipino. Millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned pesos were wasted on these wars, taking away much-needed pesos from communities that need it most,” he stressed. (Richel V. Umel / MindaNews)