154 NPA rebels surrender
LORETO, Agusan del Sur—Local and national officials yesterday welcomed more than a hundred rebel returnees back into the fold of law, as the military declared this town, once a stronghold of the New People’s Army (NPA), now insurgency-free.
Speaking on behalf of his former comrades, a guerilla leader recalled how fighting became a lost cause after he and his young family had to endure only the hard life in the mountains. They slept under trees, had little to eat and had no shelter under the rain or the intense heat.
He said his surrender offered new hope for a better life outside the insurgent movement.
Most of the 154 rebel returnees were from the Monobo tribe. Others were from neighboring Agusan del Sur provinces like Bukidnon, who found themselves joining the NPA guerilla front 34.
The returnees pledged allegiance to the government by singing the national anthem with their right hands over their hearts.
Present at the gathering was Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Peace, Security and Justice. Bautista was also a former Armed Forces chief of staff.
The welcome ceremony for the rebel returnees came following the Peace Caravan, a two-day activity where the municipal and provincial governments, as well as government agencies, provided goods and services to some 3,000 residents.
The Peace Caravan represented the “whole of nation approach” imbibed in the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, the government’s counterinsurgency program.
Lt. Col. Jake Obligado, a spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said a study made by the command showed that 74 percent of the NPA recruits in Agusan del Sur were indigenous peoples, many of them farmers. Some had not attended school at all while others only reached third grade.
Only five percent said they joined the NPA because of poverty, Obligado said.