By Mike Crismundo
CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – At least 117 members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) from various parts of Bukidnon voluntarily surrendered to the government on Tuesday and vowed to support the peace and development program of the Duterte administration.
Capt. Norman M. Tagros, Civil Military Operation Officer (CMO) of the Army’s 403rd Infantry (Peacemaker) Brigade, said among those who surrendered were 20 members of the CPP-NPAs Militia ng Bayan (MB) who brought along with them three high-powered automatic rifles and 15 low-powered firearms, and 97 members of the Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL).
“Some of them (surrenderees) were also members of the Underground Mass Organizations (UMO) of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Capt. Tagros said.
He said all the rebel returnees took their oath of allegiance before the Republic during a mass surrender ceremony in SitioMainaga, Barangay Iba, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
The ceremony was attended by Cabanglasan Mayor Renante V. Inocando, Brig. Gen. Eric C. Vinoya, commanding general of the 403rd “Peacemaker” Brigade; Police Senior Supt. Benedicto T. Pintor, provincial director of Bukidnon PPO; and Lt. Col. Ronald M. Illana, commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion (8th IB).
After taking their oath of allegiance to the government, the rebel returnees burned the CPP-NPA-NDF’s flag as a testament to their intent to reject and deny violence and terrorism by the said organization.
Mayor Inocandosaid the event was “very symbolic” in relation to peace and unity and freedom from all threats of violence and terrorism, the 403rd CMO officer added.
Lt. Col. Illana encouraged the surrenderees and the community to sustain their allegiance to the government and not to be afraid of the CPP-NPA.
“We would like to encourage all of you to always be supportive of the government and its peace and development thrusts. Do not fear of the CPP-NPA because your Philippine Army and your Philippine National Police, in collaboration with the local government unit, are here to assist you,” said the 8th IB commander, in his message during the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Vinoya, who co-chairs the Bukidnon Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee, assured the former CPP-NPA members and supporters of the government’s assistance through the E-CLIP.
“You have made a good decision by rejecting violence and terrorism posed by the CPP-NPA. Now that you have embraced peace, rest assured that the government will assist you through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP. NPA regulars and Militia ng Bayan members will receive cash and livelihood assistance, firearms remuneration, and housing, health, and employment assistance. This is to prove the sincerity of the government through the leadership of President Rodrigo RoaDuterte to end violence, promote peace, and help our former rebel brothers and sisters,” said the 403rd “Peacemaker” Brigade commander.
Likewise, during the ceremony, the LGU of Cabanglasan conducted delivery of basic services and consultation dialogues among the affected residents.
In Sarangani, the provincial government has offered additional benefits to NPA rebels who wish to return to the folds of the law and join the mainstream society.
Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon said NPA surrenderees will receive additional benefits under the provincial government’s E-CLIP), including Philhealth, housing, and scholarship benefits.
Under the new guidelines effective last April, Solon said NPA rebel surrenderees are entitled to receive P2,400 yearly Philhealth premiums, P1,400 monthly modified conditional cash transfer, P5,000 monthly conditional transitional cash grant, P10,000 college stipend for one dependent studying in state college and university, PP65,000 immediate cash assistance and a housing package worth P450,000.
The NPA surrenderees will also receive livelihood skills training from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and Alternative Learning System from the Department of Education.
The benefit package does not include the cash incentives for the firearms they will surrender.
Lizet Lopez, E-CLIP provincial focal person, said some 200 former NPA rebels had been enlisted into the E-CLIP program of the provincial government since 2013, while 14 of them will receive the new additional benefits under the new guidelines. (With a report from Joseph Jubelag)