SURRENDER. Senator Ninoy Aquino Mayor Randy Ecija Jr receives a rifle during ceremonial surrender Friday (Nov. 30) from one of the six NPAs who surrendered to Army in Sultan Kudarat. (Photo courtesy of 33rd IB)
CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao -- Six communist rebels belonging to the Guerilla Front 73 of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered in the Sultan Kudarat town of Senator Ninoy Aquino on Friday, Army officials said.
Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, said the six NPA surrenderers included a rebel leader named Ka Loloy, 50, a resident of Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.
Cabunoc said the latest batch of NPA surrenderers indicate that the military and the local government of Senator Ninoy Aquino town "are winning the hearts of communist rebels."
He said the rebels yielded "because they want to live normal lives."
Ka Loloy, the group's leader, said he "learned about the social benefits of the government program extended to our companions" who had earlier laid down their arms.
Cabunoc said Ka Loloy, who brought with him five of his comrades, vowed to support the national government’s peace initiatives.
The former NPA members are expected to receive cash benefits for the five assorted weapons that they handed over to the government through the Army -- a caliber .30 Springfield rifle, a caliber .45 M1911 pistol, and three caliber .38 revolvers.
Cabunoc has presented the former rebels to Senator Ninoy Aquino Mayor Randy Ecija Jr. and Col. Robert Dauz, commander of the Army's First Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
He and Dauz also presented the rebel returnees to Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, who happened to be in town on Saturday to inspect a government-proposed housing project for former rebels.
Mapagu, former Philippine Army chief, chairs the government Task Force Balik-Loob, who said that his office will fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to help rebel returnees.
“The pledges of our President are real. I would like to call on the remnants of the communist rebels to rejoin the mainstream society,” he said.
Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, welcomed the latest NPA surrenderers.
"This is a welcome development in our campaign against the communist terrorists. It is a reflection of their renewed trust to our government as a whole,” Sobejana said.
Since March 2017, almost 200 rebels have surrendered through the facilitation of the 33rd Makabayan battalion. The rebels operate in the Daguma Range that straddles Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao. (PNA)