CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal — One week after receiving authority to talk peace with the NPA terrorists, the Governor of Occidental Mindoro welcomed three former rebels to mainstream society on Monday.

Initial interview with the surrenderees indicate that one of them is a 16-year old minor while the two others are aged 18 and 19; the latter of which was recruited by the NPAs three years ago as a minor.

Colonel Jose Augusto Villareal, Commander of the 203rd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over Mindoro Island, identified the former rebels as Yamay Liwan alias Marvin, Layag Sanyuan alias Layka, and alias Celia whose true name is being withheld due to her being a minor.

“It is heartbreaking to learn that our three former rebels are all indigenous people whose innocence and peaceful nature were exploited by the NPA terrorists because they can no longer deceive and recruit the low-landers who are more informed of their dwindling relevance and influence in our society,” added Col Villareal.

The former rebels confessed that they are members of the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Guerilla MAV and have been involved in several encounters with government troops in the island.

Col Villarreal ended his statement by reaffirming his soldiers’ “firm resolve to rescue more IPs and child-warriors who have fallen victims to the NPA terrorists’ desperate and evil acts in the battlefield which are against internationally accepted rules of warfare” while condemning the NPA terrorists’ “recruitment, deception and exploitation of our Mangyans as well as our youth which did not only put them in physical danger but also squandered the bright future that they could possibly live.”

In a remarkable display of sincerity and commitment to local peace engagements, Gov Eduardo Gadiano personally fetched the surrenderees from their homes in Brgy Manoot, Rizal of Occidental Mindoro.

Gov Gadiano said that, “as the Provincial Chief Executive and Chairman of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or PTF ELCAC, it is my responsibility to ensure that President Duterte’s call for national unity and reconciliation will be realised because I believe that peace is the only way to achieve prosperity for my people.”

PTF ELCAC is the counterpart in the provincial level of the National Task Force ELCAC which President Duterte chairs and was created by virtue of Executive Order Number 70.

Gov Gadiano ended his statement by encouraging the NPA terrorists to “put down your arms, live peaceful lives with your families and join the entire province in our quest for just and lasting peace which every Mindoreño truly deserves.”

The surrender is the second instance of its nature in 2nd Infantry Division’s area of operations four days after the surrender of an NPA leader from San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan who turned over his automatic rifle to the military last Friday.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2ID which covers Southern Tagalog, described the series of surrenders in their area as a tangible expression of the public’s rising trust and support to the soldiers and the government, in general.

“Your soldiers’ professionalism in the battlefield coupled with the government’s immediate and transparent implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP have conveyed a message of sincerity across the region which encouraged the enemies of the state to abandon the armed struggle and, instead, be part of the solution to end our beloved country’s woes,” said Maj Gen Burgos.

Maj Gen Burgos ended his statement by saying that “we are expecting more surrenders in the coming days because the NPA terrorists are running out of space to evade our relentless combat operations, they are now fearing for their lives because of our the additional forces and armaments which we recently deployed and they are now getting hungry because the people who used to support them have already abandoned them after realising that these terrorists are irrelevant to the lives of the Filipino people.”

The military has deployed additional ground, air and naval assets in Mindoro as part of its push to decimate the few remaining NPAs in Southern Tagalog who were forced to evacuate and seek refuge in the mountains of the island province after suffering unprecedented defeat in CALABARZON.

As of the moment, 568 former rebels from the area of 2ID have returned to the folds of law since E-CLIP was implemented in 2016.

Through Resolution Number 171 signed on June 17, the Provincial Council of Occidental Mindoro authorised Gov Gadiano to lead the Local Peace Engagement with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army terrorists.