CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – Eight NPA Terrorists, two of them minors, surrendered to combined AFP and PNP elements at General Nakar, Quezon on Thursday.
After negotiations, the former rebels turned-over two shotguns as well as one Cal .45 and Cal .38 pistols to the security forces.
Col Alex Rillera, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over the area, said that one of the minors is a 13-year-old boy while the other is a 17-year-old who was forced to join the underground movement when he was still 15 years old.
Quoting the child-warriors, he added that “they were forced by the rebels to join their ranks and were forbidden to leave a terrorist camp under threat of severe repercussions to their families”.
According to Col Rillera, such is a deplorable practice within the terrorist organization that can never be justified.
Per the military’s records, the two minors are the fourth and fifth child-warriors to be rescued in less than two months.
Major General Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr, Acting Commander of the AFP’s Southern Luzon Command, attributed the influx of surrenders to the whole-of-nation approach strategy which the government has adapted to end local communist armed conflict.
He conveyed the military’s sympathies to the parents of the minors saying “no form of explanation will justify this dastardly act of putting Filipino minors in harm’s way” as he expressed outrage against the NPAs’ evil act of violating the Filipino children’s innocence saying that “there are written and unwritten rules in warfare that gives emphasis to the protection of women and children regardless whether you are pro or anti government.”
Saving the youth from deception and recruitment of the NPAs and other lawless elements has been the subject of a recent senate inquiry and has become one if the Duterte administration’s priorities.
It was discovered during the public hearing at the senate that several progressive party list groups have been acting as recruitment fronts of the terrorist group and have since been the subject of numerous parents’ pleas to return their children after their alleged “abduction.”
MGen Burgos ended his statement by committing “every soldier, airman, sailor and marines’ commitment and dedication to the entire government bureaucracy’s thrust to end local communist insurgency, including the NPA terrorists’ heinous act of recruiting and employing child-warriors.”
The child-warriors will be brought to the attention of DSWD for proper disposition and professional attention so that the victims may quickly recover from the physical and psychological trauma that they suffered after being forced to carry arms despite their innocence.
The former rebels will be processed for enrolment to the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP where they are expected to receive financial and other forms of assistance amounting to almost Php700,000 each to help them start a normal life.
Under E-CLIP, each former rebels is expected to receive the initial Php 65,000, representing the immediate and livelihood assistance from the government which are on top of the housing, employment, health care and scholarship benefits which they can avail after satisfying the requirements set forth by the program.
According to the military, they have assisted hundreds of former rebels who have signified their intention to put down their arms and return to mainstream society in order to enjoy peaceful lives with their families since the operationalization of RTF ELCAC 4A.
The names of the minors and the regular NPA fighters who surrendered are being withheld in accordance to existing laws of the land to protect not only their privacy but also to ensure their security against possible NPA aggressive actions following their surrender and turn over of firearms.