AFP chief meets long-time foe after 14 years
Fourteen years since he vowed to hunt down a notorious communist terrorist leader, former battalion commander and now Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) met his long-time foe in Davao de Oro on Saturday.
General Andres Centino met Maximo Catarata alias Datu Makatindog, former highest ranking leader of the weakened Guerilla Front 3 of the New People’s Army (NPA), during his visit at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp General Manuel T Yan Sr., Tuboran, Mawab, Davao de Oro.
Catarata surrendered along with his M16 rifle to government forces at the 60th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Asuncion, Davao del Norte on March 31. His surrender was made possible through the intelligence efforts of 10ID and 60th Infantry Battalion.
“Catarata is a living proof of the government’s sincerity in giving former rebels a chance to live a normal and peaceful life not only by ensuring the safety of their families but also by empowering them to become productive citizens of our country,” Centino said.
Before he rose to the highest military position in the AFP, Centino led the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion as Commanding Officer in 2008. They operated in the southern part of Agusan del Sur where Catarata’s group was once very active.
He continued to hunt down the elusive NPA leader when he commanded the 401st Brigade in Agusan del Sur province and southern Agusan del Sur in 2017.
The former NPA leader decided to return to the folds of the government due to the hardship he experienced inside the armed group and recent serious debacles that resulted to the mass surrender of most of his subordinates.
He was being pursued for multiple cases of attempted murder, child labor and rebellion. Prior to his surrender, three other members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 3 have yielded to 60IB on March 29 . They were Emy Ansag Camilo, logistics officer; and GF3 elements Nilo Oyda Moluhinday and Reyan Bagubay Moluhinday.
On February 26, Catarata’s son who is also commanding officer of GF3, Renard Galos Catarata with 12 others surrendered to 60IB bringing along with them high-powered firearms. The surrenders led to the dismantling of GF3 and two other NPA units operating in the tri-boundaries of Agusan Sur, Davao De Oro and Davao Del Norte.
“The hardships inside the NPA organization are now taking its toll on its members leading them to return to the folds of the law. The AFP welcomes them and is willing to offer them assistance in line with our government local integration programs,” Centino said. Public Affairs Office, AFP