25 EX-RED FIGHTERS SURRENDER IN NEGOCC
Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, receives a surrendered firearm of a former rebel during the ceremony held at the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Bato, Sagay City on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of 79th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)
BACOLOD CITY -- A total of 25 former fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental yielded to military and police authorities in northern Negros on Saturday.
The group, operating in the boundaries of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto towns and San Carlos City, surrendered after months of localized peace negotiations, in a ceremony held at the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (79IB) headquarters in Barangay Bato, Sagay City.
They turned over their firearms and took an oath of allegiance to the Philippine government before Col. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade; Police Col. Romeo Baleros, director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office; and Ma. Fatima Daiz, cluster leader of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)-Negros Occidental North.
The firearms included three M16 rifles, four Garand rifles, one M14 rifle, four shotguns, one .22-caliber Magnum rifle, one .38-caliver revolver, 12 .45-caliber pistols, two 9-mm submachine guns, 14 assorted rifle and pistol magazines loaded with ammunition, and two shotgun bandoleers with ammunition.
In a statement on Sunday, Lt. Col. Emilito Thaddeus Logan, commanding officer of 79IB, said the series of surrenders of former NPA rebels and their supporters can be attributed to the combined efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and concerned local government units.
These included the conduct of focused military operations, intelligence efforts, civil-military operations and reintegration efforts, and the implementation of peace and development programs, he added.
“The barangay officials also played an important role in urging the NPA rebels to give up violence. The Army recognizes their efforts and support to the localized peace talks initiated by the 303rd Infantry Brigade since November last year,” Logan said.
Arevalo said former rebels deserve another chance to lead normal lives after their surrender because they were only deceived by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front.
Police Lt. Col. Mario Baquiran Jr., commander of 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company, said it is high time the rebels realize that they are just being used and fooled.
“The communist organizers and recruiters agitate them on various issues not meant to be resolved,” he added.
Personnel of the 79IB and the DILG will facilitate enrolment of the former rebels into the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.
Through the program, a former rebel is entitled to receive immediate assistance of PHP15,000; livelihood assistance, PHP50,000; firearms remuneration, PHP12,000 to PHP500,000; half-way house assistance; PhilHealth enrolment and medical assistance; education assistance; housing assistance; legal assistance; and healing and reconciliation initiatives. (PNA)