CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — A ranking NPA terrorist together with a fighter under him turned their backs from armed struggle after meeting with the local peace engagement team led by the Mayor of Bansud, Oriental Mindoro on Saturday.
Per the military’s records, both former rebels are listed as active members of the NPA’s Sub-Regional Military Area 4D who have operated in Palawan before shifting to the island provinces of Mindoro.
Col Jose Augusto Villareal, Commander of the 203rd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over MIMARO provinces, identified the NPA leader as Janel Almahan alias Rekbi who was a Vice Squad Leader of Kilusang Larangang Gerilya ICM before he decided to rejoin mainstream society.
“As a gesture of his sincerity and good faith, he convinced Benji Lituan alias Egin, one of the fighters under him, to join him in surrendering after they got tired of evading our unrelenting focused military operations which was recently reinforced by additional forces coming from Region 4A”, said Col Villareal.
He is optimistic that “they are just the first of the massive exodus of their former comrades under alias Rekbi” whom they are confident will follow the former rebels’ path to peace after receiving validation that the government is sincere and committed in forging national healing and reconciliation through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP.
“Similar to the 319 other former rebels from Mindoro who have surfaced before them, we will assist them in their E-CLIP enrolment and we will help them reintegrate to mainstream society for them to live peaceful and prosperous lives with their families”, ended Col Villareal.
According to the military, a total of 604 former rebels turned over 114 firearms to government forces since E-CLIP’s “maiden implementation in Luzon and Visayas” was held on Aug 14, 2018 at Tanauan City, Batangas.
Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, said that “this surrender is not just a clear indicator of the growing demoralisation among the ranks of the NPA terrorists but also a manifestation that Task Force ELCAC is really functioning at the municipal level considering that the negotiations was spearheaded by Mayor Rolando Morada.”
He added that “the declaration of the NPA terrorists as Persona non Grata in 485 barangays across the two Mindoros have greatly affected the enemies’ will to fight and denied them the space to evade our forces which led to decisive engagements which are now taking a heavy toll among the underground movement.”
Recent developments in the hinterlands of the province have seen military and polic occupying what they believe is the headquarters of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee which was forced to relocate to Mindoro Island after suffering unprecedented defeat in CALABARZON in recent years.
He assured the public that “President Duterte’s signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act has catapulted the government in a position where, today more than ever, we can finally put an end to local armed conflict which has been hampering our progress as a nation.”
Maj Gen Burgos ended his statement by reaffirming “my soldier’s commitment and dedication in accomplishing our mandate as advocates of peace, servants of the people and defenders of Southern Tagalog.”
The duo will be enrolled to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP which provides benefits up to Php 700,000 worth of grants and reintegration packages.
According to the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division, more than Php 16 million worth of grants have been distributed to E-CLIP-qualified former rebels since 2018.
Last Thursday, 83 NPA supporters from Norzagaray, Bulacan withdrew their support from the communist party during a ceremony at Malolos City which was jointly facilitated by 2ID and 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and Bulacan Provincial Police Office.
The landmark event was presided by Bulacan Gov Daniel Fernando.