By Mike Crismundo
CAMP DATU LIPUS MAKAPANDONG, Awa New Leyte, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur – Former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels started the year right by celebrating it with the officers and men of the Army’s 401st Infantry (Unity) Brigade held at the headquarters here.
Formerly known as “Commander Boss and Mark” (surname withheld for his safety and security), former commanding officer of GF-3 and nine others of his command group and squad leaders happily joined soldiers of the 401st Brigade under the command of Brig. Gen. Andres C. Centino in welcoming the New Year.
Government soldiers welcomed their former foes and feasted on a joint “Media Noche” at the 401st Brigade headquarters here.
“This is really a very historic event,” observed Brig. Gen. Centino, as he disclosed that this was the very first time that they celebrated the New Year with the former enemies of the state.
“Despite several decades of fighting the CPP-NPA, I still believe that it is still best to choose the path to peace,” he said.
“To our brothers and sisters who just returned to the government last Christmas day, I am happy that you chose the path to peace just in time for this yuletide season. Let us work together for a peaceful 2019 by helping us convince your former comrades to follow suit in heeding the government’s call for peace. Let them know that we welcome former NPA members who returned to the folds of the law and that they are taken cared of just like what we are doing with you,” said the 401st Brigade commander in his New Year’s eve message during the program.
“I don’t know how to feel tonight. I can’t believe that just few days ago, the soldiers are our enemy but since Christmas day until now, you are the ones taking care of us including our dependents. This is the most memorable New Year I and my family have ever experienced because not only did we regain our freedom, we also celebrate this occasion with soldiers who are doing their best to help us. All I can say is thank you very much and happy new year to all,” said “Commander Boss.”
Meanwhile, the other nine former rebels and their families were assisted by Lt. Col Jaime R. Datuin, commanding officer of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion (75th IB) while having their reunion on New Year’s Day.
On Christmas day last year, 19 members of the GF3 operating in Agusan del Sur and part of Surigao del Sur surrendered to the government through the help of 75th IB and 26th IB bringing with them 14 high powered firearms, bomb-making, and other war materials.
With this development, the 401st Brigade and the officials of the provincial government of Agusan del Sur led by Gov. Adolph Edward G. Plaza are taking care of them and their dependents while processing their enrollment to the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, said Maj. Rodulfo S. Cordero, Jr., chief of 401st CMO office.