Hardships forced former communist rebels to return to the government
The third batch of rebel returnees from Eastern Mindanao visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, toured Luneta and Intramuros before they met President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang Tuesday night.
Major Ezra Balagtey, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command, said the third batch which is composed of 187 rebel returnees arrived in Manila via two Philippine Air Force C130s on Monday.
Balagtey said the former rebels are from Regions XII and XIII, provinces of Davao Del Sur and Davao Del Norte and some from Davao City. They were to return to their areas on Wednesday.
“They are part of the 683 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from different parts of Eastern Mindanao that were presented to the President on December 21, 2017, at Panacan, Davao City,” he said.
Their visit that is expected to conclude on Wednesday include the former rebels meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacanang and tour in Luneta and Intramuros in Manila.
In an interview with a former rebel who joined the tour identified as alias Ka Efren, a National Democratic Front (NDF) Far South Mindanao spokesman said he was convinced to join the rebel group when he was a fourth year collage student of the Mindanao State University on 1998.
Efren, who began as a combatant of the rebel group, became NDF spokesman in 2005.
He was a member of the rebel group for 20 years because he strongly believed in the principles of the NPA.
“I really believed in their principle that is why I stayed there for a period of time, to make this country attain national liberty and democracy,” Efren said.
“But I realized that it is very impossible to obtain (this) through armed struggle,” he added.
Efren, who has one child, said he only saw his child and wife once a month while his parents were able to visit him in the mountain after several years.
Despite the hardships he experienced while he was a rebel, Efren emphasized he has no regret even though he saw most of his classmates have a good life.
Efren said after returning to folds of the law he is planning to have a peaceful life with his family.
Another rebel identified as alias Puma, 32, who was a group commander in the Caraga Region, said every fighter was given food allowance of 60 pesos per day while each of their children get 1,500 pesos monthly allowance.
Puma said his three children were living with his parents as his wife is a member of the rebel group who was arrested by government forces last year.
He said the allowance came from revolutionary taxes that the rebels collect from companies.
Puma said as rebel returnees, the government promised them livelihood and an opportunity to study under TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) to improve their lives.
Last Monday, the AFP announced there were a total of 2,263 regular members and supporters of the NPA nationwide who surrendered to government forces since January 2018.
“As of March 4, 2018, a total of 607 regular members of the NPA yielded to government authorities while the remaining 1,656 surrenderees are categorized into Militia ng Bayan (MB), Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) members and mass supporters,” said Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, AFP Public Affairs Chief.
Garcia said “the data shows that the overwhelming number of surrenders happened in Davao Region where the bulk of the NPAs force is also situated.”
“A total of 2,036 or 90 percent of surrenders come from Davao Region. Most notable were the series of mass surrenders in Compostela Valley province where 371 members of Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) and supporters surrendered in Maragusan last January 20, 193 UGMO members and supporters surrendered in Monkayo last February 3, and 166 UGMO members and supporters in Montevista who surrendered on February 19,” he said.
“The massive surrenders of NPAs and their supporters were attributed to the combined focused military operations, intelligence efforts, civil-military operations and re-integration efforts and peace and development programs of the AFP, PNP, and local government units,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS