The Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry 'Jungle Fighter' Division's towering Christmas tree and Nativity Scene at the Camp Gen. Mateo Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal where members of former New People’s Army, who surrendered to the 1st Infantry Division military troops in Batangas last December 21, held a reunion with their families. (Photo by Saul E. Pa-a)
CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal -- Five of the nine New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who recently surrendered to government forces in Batangas, described their “best Christmas ever” as they reunite with their families this holiday season.
On Friday, Major General Rhoderick M. Parayno, commander of the Army’s 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division (2ID), welcomed the former rebels and congratulated them “for choosing their families over their comrades, for choosing peace over conflict and for choosing to be productive members of society over being extortionists who terrorize their fellow Filipinos.”
Military officials said the identities and locations of the former NPAs, who surrendered last Dec. 21 are being withheld as part of the strict security protocol being observed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Parayno has reiterated the AFP’s call for peace while assuring the former rebels’ safety, including that of their families.
He earlier made the call for the rebels to come home before Christmas and feel the peace, love, joy and bonding with their families last Dec. 20, which inspired the rebels to yield to authorities.
“The NPAs have lost their relevance. They have not only lost 50 years, they wasted 50 years of their lives pursuing their false ideology,” Parayno said.
According to military officials, a former rebel admitted they have no regrets for turning themselves in to authorities.
“I almost forgot the real spirit of Christmas because of the wrong cause. It is a great feeling to celebrate this (Christmas) together with my family, without experiencing fear. I hope my comrades would feel the same way,” the rebel surrenderer said.
The rebels voluntary gave up five days before the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) marked its 50th founding anniversary on December 26.
As surrenderers fall under his operational jurisdiction, Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Marcelo B. Burgos Jr., commander of the Army’s 202nd Infantry “Unifier” Brigade, said the insurgents surrendered to the elements of 1st Infantry Battalion (1IB), who facilitated their safe return to the government and reintegration to the mainstream of society.
“They are just some of the remnants of the terrorist organization operating in the province which is now on the final stages of dismantling following the series of major debacles against our forces last year and the mass surrender of 13 former rebels before both the Secretaries of National Defense (SND) and the Interior and Local Government (SILG) last August in Tanauan City,” said Burgos.
The five rebels have shared their “best Christmas ever” experience as they were reunited with their respective families, according to Lt. Col Jonathan Manio, Commander of the Army’s 1IB.
“Nine former rebels surrendered to our unit, laid down their arms and decided to live in peace,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Manio, commander of the Army’s 1IB, said, pointing to the rebels’ frustrations after experiencing hardships in evading military operations.
Meanwhile, Captain Patrick Jay Retumban, chief of the 2ID public affairs office, said the 202nd Brigade has recorded 24 surrenderers from Laguna, Batangas and the 1st and 2nd Districts of Quezon in 2018 alone.
Retumban said that out of the 24 surrendered rebels, 18 have already availed of the benefits under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) while the rest are expected to be awarded next month.
He added that the E-CLIP is a holistic inter-agency approach of the government to end insurgency peacefully, by encouraging rebels to join mainstream society through various grants and compensations to help them start over their normal life.
Upon validation and approval of their enrollment to the program, each former rebel will receive PHP65,000 representing the immediate and livelihood assistance to former NPAs.
He said the package of benefits covers housing, education, and health care, among others, which the government is offering in its effort to unify the country and attain genuine, lasting peace. (PNA)