ASUNCION, Davao del Norte – Following the recent snowball of surrender of NPA regulars, Militia ng Bayan, and underground mass organization members in Agusan Sur in July, four members of the communist-terrorist group’s Pulang Bagani Command 4 (PBC 4), Southern Mindanao Regional Committee voluntarily surrendered anew to the 60 th Infantry (MEDIATOR) Battalion on Saturday.
The four surrenderees are all members of the Umayamnon-Manobo tribe and are residents of Agusan del Sur. They brought with them their NPA-issued firearms upon surrendering.
Whilst joining the CPP-NPA in different periods, all four surrenderees claim they have been coerced by their terrorist recruiters to join the group. All four also claim that they started as mere couriers of the NPA’s foodstuff and other supplies before they were told to serve the “movement” fulltime.
Alias Ago and alias Dalisay recalls they both resisted at first; pleading their recruiter—a certain Rene Catarata alias “Tata”—that they cannot leave their homes since they both have ailing children during that time. Ago even says that Tata went as far as threatening to kill him and his family if he insisted not to join.
Alias Leroy and alias Korme, on the other hand, had been promised by their recruiters that their families will be financially supported while they are away operating with the NPA.
Leroy, who have been with the NPA for over a year already, and Korme, who was recruited only last May, both discovered from Dalisay (recruited on June) that their families have not received the promised financial support. In fact, their families have already been seeking the help of their local officials in finding them.
On Friday, Tata ordered the four to fetch their new supplies when they accidentally ran into their barangay captain and tribal chief who then convinced them not to return to the armed group.
Dalisay told them that they have already been planning to surrender but they were afraid the authorities will only turn against them.
Both the barangay captain and the tribal chieftain, however, expressed their confidence with 60IB and the local government who have been actively campaigning to end the local insurgency thru peaceful means while also implementing its enhanced reintegration programs. The local officials assured the four that they will be treated fairly by the authorities.
The four was able to recover their respective firearms—one US M1 Carbine, one US-made 12- gauge shotgun, a homemade shotgun, and a caliber .357 revolver—from their hideout before finally surrendering to the authorities.
Assuming operational jurisdiction over the municipalities of Loreto, Veruela, Sta. Josefa, and one barangay of La Paz, Agusan del Sur Province since July, (i.e.) 60IB has been actively working with the different local government units and other institutions to help end the local communist armed conflict in these areas.
Its most recent gain is the surrender of over 30 CPP-NPA members whose revelations and insights have been instrumental to the effective conduct of 60IB’s community support program vis-à-vis the delivery of basic services by other government agencies.
The Philippine Army recently conferred the “Proficient Status” under its Army Governance Pathway to 60IB and recognized it as a “Gold Trailblazer,” having received a very high score after its evaluation and validation.
The award was given to 60IB during the 10 th Infantry Division’s anniversary celebration last August 16 (Friday) in Mawab by Army Chief Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto who praised 60IB for having been able to rally for a more effective, genuine Whole-of-Nation approach to ending the local armed conflict, and implementing operational and administrative innovations resulting to major gains in its campaign.
Giving a statement, 60IB commander Lt. Col. Gilbert Ombos said, “It’s not really about the recognition but more about genuinely transforming ourselves—our troops—to becoming an army that really cares for the people. Add to that the parallel transformation of our local government units and other government institutions whose role in ending the local communist armed conflict cannot be more important today than it was yesterday. We realize through our recent gains that the reason these rebels are becoming more confident to voluntarily surrender and cooperate with authorities is because we have become a better government. That’s all we had to do.”