TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur – A former NPA Commander, his wife and three others peacefully surrendered to government forces in Brgy. Poblacion, Loreto, Agusan del Sur on Friday, May 31.
Javier and his wife Ann, a squad political officer, supply officers Ricky and Yaw, and team leader James (not their real names), surrendered to the Philippine Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, reports say.
All five belonged to Guerilla Front 34 of the CPP-NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC). The notorious communist- terrorist group reportedly operates in the boundaries of Caraga region and Compostela Valley Province.
They brought along with them assorted weapons and paraphernalia including two caliber .30 Carbine Rifles with three magazines, one caliber .30 sub-machine gun with two magazines,one KG9 sub-machine gun, two shotguns, one caliber .45 with one magazine, one fragmentation grenade, and one Anti-Personnel Mine (APM).
The couple’s decision to surrender came after realizing the deception they have fallen into for many years. Ann said the CPP-NPA never fulfilled any of its promises when they were recruited years ago. Instead, they were separated from their five children who were left to fend for themselves.
“Gusto nako bisitahon akong mga anak, pero among mga labaw dili musugot, bisan kahibalo sila na kinahanglan nako atimanon ang akong anak nga naay sakit. Ug ang ilang mga saad nga suporta para kanamo, wala matuman, ilabi na gyud pagka-hospital sakong anak, wala silay gihatag bisan piso. Dili gud sila uyon sa pamilya,” she claimed. (I wanted to visit my children but our leaders did not allow me, even though they knew I needed to attend to my sick son. Also, the support they promised to us for our children never came especially when my youngest son was hospitalized. They did not even bother to provide a single centavo. They don’t care about family.)
The couple finally found an opportunity to abandon the armed group after a friend told them about the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).
Meanwhile, Ricky who was only 17 when he was recruited last year, also lamented about the hardship he suffered being a member of the NPA. “Kanunay mi managan kung adunay operasyon ang sundalo, ug osahay wala na miy kaon sulod sa duha ka adlaw kay dugay ang suplay sa pagkaon. Mao nang hinungdan nga niambak ko sa kalihukan samtang ako naggwardiya, para musorender”, he said. (We were always on the run when there were military operations. Sometimes we don’t eat for two days because of delayed food supplies. We decided to escape while we were posted as guards because we cannot take it anymore.)
Lt.Col.Romeo Jimenea, the 26th IB Commander said the five were all victims of the CPP-NPA-NDF’s vicious lies and propaganda especially Ricky who was a minor when he was recruited.
“The International Humanitarian Law prohibits the recruitment of persons under 18 years old to become combatant, even in local armed conflict,” Jimenea said.
Jimenea attributed the influx of surrenders from Loreto to the recent declaration of CPP-NPA-NDF and its supporters as “persona non- grata” by the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC), and the Manobo Tribal leaders.
Records show that from January to date, 151 NPAs from Agusan del Sur have already surrendered to the government. They also handed-over 50 firearms of various calibers.
Col. Allan Hambala, 401st Brigade Commander lauded the troops for facilitating the peaceful surrender of the five former terrorists. He vowed to help them live normal lives again through the government’s ECLIP. He said the military will be relentless in its offensive operations against the few remaining armed terrorists as the entire nation strives to end local communist armed conflict.