COTABATO CITY — The military in North Cotabato claimed on Monday that communist rebels operating in the Arakan Valley complex are willing to surrender and live normal lives but are being prevented by their leaders.
Lt. Col. Elrick Paraso, commander of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB), said former New People’s Army (NPA) members, who earlier surrendered to military authorities, revealed that many of their comrades in the mountains are willing to surrender but were threatened with summary execution.
“The NPA leaders are threatening to conduct “purging” of members if they learn of surrender plots,” Paraso said in an interview over Church-run DXMS radio station here.
Since March, when the 19th IB was deployed in North Cotabato, more than 40 rebels have surrendered with their rifles and availed of the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
The latest batch of surrenderers consists of 10 NPA rebels operating in the towns of Arakan, President Roxas, Antipas, and Magpet – who decided to return home to their families last month, Paraso said.
While the Army is offering a venue for the rebels to reform and live peacefully with their families through hotline numbers in billboards across the province, government troops continue to patrol rebel-infested villages at the Arakan Valley complex.
“To date, surrender is still the best option,” Paraso said referring to the NPA rebels wanting to return to government fold.
The Arakan Valley complex is composed of five towns — Antipas, Arakan, Magpet, Matalam and President Roxas — where the bulk of government peace and development initiatives are currently being implemented in the province.
On Friday, three NPA rebels were killed in a chance encounter with 19th IB troopers in Barangay Panaca, Magpet.
No casualty was reported on the government side while soldiers recovered three firearms from the slain rebels. Noel Punzalan/PNA-northboundasia.com