SIBAGAT, Agusan del Sur – 50 Indigenous People’s (IPs) who are former members and supporters of the Communist New People’s Army Terrorists (CNTs) brought their firearms, returned to the folds of the law and pledged their loyalty to the government through the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army at Brgy. Poblacion, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur last Holy Wednesday April 18, 2019.
They are composed of (6) regular CNTs, (14) Militia ng Bayan (MB) and (30) mass supporters from Sitio Kahayag, Barangay Banag-banag and Sitio Bantolinao, Barangay Padiay of said Municipality. They brought with them (1) M653 rifle, (1) Cal.22 rifle, (6) 12 gauge homemade shotguns, (2) cal .38 pistols, and one (1) fragmentation grenade.
Alex, team leader of Guerrilla Front 21 (GF21) said, “I am so tired and hungry. I don’t want to participate in the atrocities anymore and stop living like this. I know that staying in the mountains as a member of the NPA will not give me a better future.” To show their sincerity, the surrenderees marched altogether bringing their firearms towards the 8th Special Forces Company, 3rd SFBn.
“The Sibagat LGU have given initial assistance composed of rice, goods and cash while we process their Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits”, Mayor Maria Liza L Evangelista said.
It can be recalled that last December 21, 2018, the Municipality of Sibagat has declared the CNTs as “Persona Non-Grata” after the latter abducted the CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) members and regular soldiers of the New Tubigon Patrol Base.
Datu Kahapsay (not his true name), a charismatic tribal leader, led the surrenderees and said, “We now pledge our loyalty to the “True Government” and not to the Communist Terrorists.” “It has been long enough that we have been manipulated by the NPAs. I thank President Duterte for giving us (Lumads) a chance to recover from the years of destruction, oppression and the lies of the communist ideology which caused misunderstandings among the Manobos”, Datu Kahapsay added.
Lt. Col. Joey B Baybayan, Commander 3SF Battalion said, “The 3rd Special Forces Battalion, urges all Local Government Units (LGUs) to declare the CNTs “Persona Non-Grata” and take the lead to influence sectors of the community especially the IPs.” “The declaration of “Persona Non-Grata” didn’t go in vain. Instead, it displayed the solidarity of the people and the whole community of Sibagat to work together yielding positive results. The surrender is a manifestation of how LGUs and other stakeholders jointly exerted efforts that eventually led to the mass surrender thereby attaining the long been desired peace and development.” Baybayan added.
BGen Andres C Centino, Commander 401st Infantry Brigade said, “The mass surrender in Sibagat will have a great impact to the CNTs and will surely result to more members returning to the mainstream society. The terrorists are clearly losing their mass support and they will continue to disintegrate.”
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M Gacal, Commander 4th ID said, “I congratulate the 3rd SF Battalion and the 401st Brigade on this significant accomplishment. I assure the surrenderees that the government will help them live a peaceful life. I am also grateful with the support of the LGUs and the Tribal Leaders in the area who really worked hard to ensure that their constituents will go down and choose to live a peaceful life with their families.” “4th ID will continue to work with all stakeholders in line with the government’s “Whole of Nation Approach to end local communist armed conflict. I call on the remaining CNT members who are just deceived and manipulated, that this Lenten Season is the best time to repent and surrender.” Gacal ended.