Rebels-turned-soldiers visit jailed former NPA commander

BISLIG CITY, Surigao del Sur- Camp Jaime N Ferrer Sr, Brgy Maharlika, Bislig City (Stn) – Three new soldiers of the Philippine Army who used to be members of the communist-terrorist CPP-NPA visited their former commander at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) detention facility in Brgy. Pobalcion, Bislig, Surigao Del Sur on May 28, 2019.

The three soldiers identified by their surnames as Blanco, Alvarez, and Tumaquin were among the 275 new privates who recently graduated from the grueling six-month Candidate Soldier Course and Jungle Warfare and Mountain Operations Course at the Army’s 4th ID Division Training School in Malaybalay, Bukidnon last May 23.

Tumaquin spent nine years with Guerilla Front 14 of the North-Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC), while Blanco and Alvarez stayed for eight and four years respectively. The dreaded terror group is now considered a weakened guerilla front following the arrest and detention of its leader, Robert Tejero Calipay alias “Satur/Arpak”.

The three were joined by CAFGU Active Auxiliaries (CAA) who were also former members of the CPP-NPA. They were among hundreds of former CPP-NPA terrorists who surrendered to government forces and local government units after suffering hardships and realizing the futility of their struggle.

A traditional boodlefight was prepared by the new soldiers and their new colleagues from the 75th Infantry Battalion during the visit. The three said it was their way of thanking God, the government and their families for the new leash in life that was granted to them. They also pledged to give their best in serving the country especially their fellow Mindanaoans.

Tumaquin lamented how grateful he was for being given another chance in life. “Ako karon labing nalipay tungod hingpit nang nahimong sundalo. Lahi gyud ug walay kamatuoran ang mga bakak sa sulod sa NPA. Karon duna nakoy maayong trabaho, kauban na nako ang akong pamilya ug labaw sa tanan mahatag nako kanila ang ilang panginahanglan lakip ang hapsay nga kinabuhi nga wala namo maangkon sa sulod sa Hukbo.” (Masayang masaya ako na naging sundalo ako. Ibang iba ngayon kaysa sa sinasabi nila dati nung nasa loob pa ako ng NPA. Ngayon, nakakapagtrabaho ako ng maayos, nakakasama ko ang pamilya ko at higit sa lahat nabibigay ko sa kanila ang maayos na buhay na hindi naibigay ng Hukbo dati), he said.

Calipay, 29, was considered one of the most notorious NPA leaders in the province and was involved in various crimes and atrocities until his arrest by government forces on April 14, 2019. He was elated seeing his former comrades who are now full-pledged soldiers of the Philippine Army. 
”Nagpasalamat jud ko sa akung mga kaubanan ug labi na jud sa mga kasundaluhan nag ilakung ge besita karun. Lisod kayo ang kinabuhi denhi sa sulod sa silda, matulog ka nga nakapungko tungod sa sobra ka daghan namu sa usa ka kwarto. Init ug deli jud ka mahimutang. Segi ko ug huna huna, nga unta nakig uyon nalang ko sa mga kasundaluhan siguro na maayo pud akung kahimtang karun, gawasnon ug kapariha usab sa akung mga kaubanan nga nahimong sundalo usab.” (Nagpapasalamat ako sa aking mga kasamahan dati pati narin sa mga kasundaluhan na dumalaw sa akin ngayon. Mahirap ang buhay dito sa loob ng selda, natutulog ka ng nakaupo dahil sa sobrang dami nyo sa isang kwarto. Mainit at hindi ka komportable. Lagi ko naiisip, sana nakipagtulungan nalang ako sa mga sundalo. Siguro ngayon, maayos na ang buhay ko. Katulad ng mga kasamahan ko, nakapagsundalo narin siguro ako.) Calipay said.

One of the soldiers who arrested Calipay observed that he (Calipay) is in a better shape now compared to his condition when he was arrested.

“Mas maayos na ang itsura nya ngayon kumpara nung araw na nahuli natin s’ya. Pagpasok palang namin ng BJMP at nung makita n’ya kami, nakangiti sya at nakipag-kamay. Nakipagwentuhan din s’ya samin hindi tulad noong una namin s’yang madakip na parang wala sa sarili at hindi alam ang sasabihin”, the soldier said.

Calipay who hails from Lianga, Surigao del Sur has pending cases for arson, frustrated murder, attempted homicide, and multiple attempted murder. He is now under the custody of the BJMP- Bislig while awaiting trial.

Lt. Col. Jaime Datuin, 75th IB Commander said they will help ensure that Calipay will be treated well and that his rights will be respected. He also encouraged the few remaining terrorists to peacefully surrender to the government and reunite with their families.