Armed forces chief: More rebels to surrender-A A +A
Saturday, March 29, 2014
THE top official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is optimistic that more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels will return to the folds of the government.
“It is time that we give chance to peace; we don’t need more bloodshed against our brothers in the NPA. I think this event will inspire others who are still in the armed struggle to give up their arms and return the folds of our communities. We don’t have to kill one another to achieve our goals and aspirations, there are more viable means in reaching peace,” said General Emmanuel Bautista, AFP chief of staff, during the presentation of 72 former rebels at the army division headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City.
Bautista said the signing of the peace agreement signaled a new chance for peace.
“The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Philippine government is a sign that we can reach our hopes of a progress and unity through peaceful means of talks. I am thankful to our brothers who have come back to the folds of government and left and abandoned the armed movement, they have paved a way for that peace to be a more closer goal,” said the AFP chief.
Not a threat
Major General Ricardo Visaya, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, said the number of NPA under his area is not anymore a threat.
“We’ve learned from the statement of those who surrendered that they tried to reinforce and help other units to make them look larger and bigger. That’s why in the testimony you have heard one of the returnees claimed they had to move from Agusan del Sur to Surigao del Norte to aid another unit,” he said.
Visaya said that the numbers of the rebels who surrendered is a significant increase from that of last year.
“Barely six months ago last year, 35 NPA rebels surrendered carrying with them 39 assorted firearms. In turn, we paid a total of P1.2 million for the firearms that were surrendered. This year, the number doubled to 72 and with them a total of 69 assorted firearms. The military spent P2.092 million to the former rebels in exchange for the firearms surrendered,” Visaya said.
He said 48 rebels came from Bukidnon, 18 from Agusan del Sur, three from Surigao del Sur, one from Agusan del Norte and two from Misamis Oriental.
But during his opening speech, Visaya said that over the past two weeks, several harassment and encounters with the NPA occurred within the 4th ID’s areas of responsibility, claiming the lives of two soldiers and allegedly eight members of the NPA.
Librado Acita, also known as Ka Fredie, 18 years old from the town of Loreto in Agusan del Sur, claimed that the NPA recruited him at a young age.
“I was recruited when I was just 14 years old. They convinced me that if I would join the armed struggle, I would be saved from addictions, such as drugs and liquor, and I would be able to help my family and the rest of my community from the problems we are suffering from,” said Acita.
Acita revealed that he took with him an Ak-47 rifle when he surrendered and received P58,000 in return.
He recalled that in his early days with the NPA, he wasn’t given any weapon for several months. He was freely coming in and out of the camp. Later, when he had his firearm, he started to experience an encounter with the military.
Acita added that no child should experience what he did, as he regretted his decisions in the past.
“It’s something I’m not proud of and I hope others won’t follow my example. At a young age, the experience of going into an encounter was horrific, I didn’t know what to do or where to run and hide,” Acita shared.
Another from the town of Loreto in Agusan del Sur is Benjie Salintao, 17 years old.
“I initially joined when I was just 14 years old but I wasn’t given any weapon until after maybe a year. We served under Datu Tindugan of Front 34 side one and experienced several terrifying near death experiences.
None of the promises during our recruitment was fulfilled,” said Salintao.
Salintao declined to further identify and explain how he was recruited and what were the promises made.
Mario Ilagan, also known as Ka Mario, 28 years old of Sitio Bato, Barangay Bitaugan in the town of San Miguel in Surigao del Sur, said that he did not have that much experience before his surrender.
“I surrendered last February 14, 2014. I brought with me a Garand and an AR-18 rifle when I surrendered but I was only in the NPA for just several month since I only joined last December of 2013,” said Ilagan, who did not anymore give information on how he got hold of two high powered rifles.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 29, 2014.