37 NPA ‘guerillas,’ supporters yield in Cordillera

BAGUIO CITY — A total of 37 ‘guerrillas’ and supporters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) have surrendered to government troops in Ifugao and Mountain Province just within the first week of August, authorities reported Wednesday.

On Aug. 4, 14 NPA full-fledged “militia ng bayan” (MB) and six supporters surfaced in Barangay Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao. MB refers to individuals who have been indoctrinated and may or may not be directly involved in armed struggle and they provide mass support to the movement.

On Aug. 7, six more MBs and 11 local supporters from the villages of Tinoc town also came forward, bringing to 37 the total number of surrenderers in less than a week.

The first batch of surrenderers handed over to the government soldiers an M-16 rifle.

The surrenderers came out as government soldiers stationed in Cordillera held peace caravans in those areas on Aug. 4.

“The CNT-MB (Communist NPA Terrorist Militia ng Bayan) and their supporters voluntarily surrendered to our teams facilitating the Community Support Program (CSP), after having dialogue with the community about the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in the said towns,” Capt. Jefferson Somera, chief of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office quoted 54th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Narciso Nabulneg Jr. as saying on Wednesday.

The 54th IB operates in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province, Benguet, and Baguio.

“These personalities were long-time supporters of the enemy that played a vital role in the survival of the CNT group, and by having them on our side we can now paralyze the enemies’ activities in their traditional abode. We will soon reach the desired peace and development in this part of the country,” Somera relayed in a telephone interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

Somera said the left-leaning surrenderers also had their oath of allegiance to the government and denounced their former groups in front of their families, friends, and local elected officials in a short program during the peace caravan in Sagada, Mountain Province.

Locals, tribal elders, youths, and staff of the Philippine National Police and of the 54th Infantry Battalion also witnessed the event.

“The attendees were holding placards declaring that the people of Sagada are peace loving people,” Somera said.

The peace caravans, he said, were aimed at bringing various government services to the communities, especially in far-flung areas.

Joining the peace caravans were people from the Department of Public Works and Highways, who took the chance to visit the area to conduct a survey for various infrastructure projects; from the Municipal Social Work Office, who distributed food packages; from the Santiago City Seventh Day Adventist Hospital, who lead a medical outreach activity; Philippine Red Cross, and from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office in Ifugao.

The Bureau of Fire Protection and the PNP also held an information drive during the event.

Major Gen. Perfecto Rimando Jr., commander of the Army’s 5ID, said teams under the 54IB’s Community Support Program (CSP) would continue to work hard to convince left-leaning people to return to the fold of the law.

“Truly, if we put premium on the rights and welfare of our ‘kababayans’ in our activities, our jobs become easy,” Rimando said. “These former CNT supporters have seen the sincerity of our soldiers that is why they surrendered. If we continue to become professional in our dealing with the locals, we will achieve the desired peace the soonest possible time.”

On the localized peace talks, Rimando said: “As we express our support for the localized peace talks, we will unrelentingly pursue the enemies of the Filipino People — the CNT — until they voluntarily surrender or the hands of justice will be served to them.”

Meanwhile, Somera said the surrenderers would receive Immediate Assistance, Reintegration Assistance, and Remuneration for the Firearm Surrendered under E-CLIP. (PNA-northboundasia.com