By Francis Wakefield
Tired of running and hiding, nine high-ranking members of the Communist New People’s Army Terrorist (CNT) from the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) heeded the call of peace and surrendered to the Army’s 26th Infantry “Ever Onward” Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, in Agusan del Sur on Sunday, March 3, 2019.
The recent batch of CNTs who abandoned the terror organization consisted of two commanding officers, one squad leader, two team leaders, two medics and one supply officer.
The surrenderees also handed-over assorted firearms and explosives which include; two M16 rifles, two US Garand rifles, one US Carbine rifle, one Improvised M79 Grenade Launcher, three Caliber 45 pistols, one improvised anti-personnel mine and one hand grenade.
Their surrender now brings the total number of CPP-NPA terrorists who laid down their arms in favor of a peaceful life to 346 after the 4th Infantry Division launched its so called “peaceful war” earlier this year.
Moreover, the division has captured or recovered a total of 53 assorted firearms and other war materiels mostly due to surrenders and tip-offs coming from concerned citizens.
One of the squad leaders, Tonton (not his real name), said their decision to surrender came after witnessing the surrender of their former comrades in December last year, who were subsequently assisted and provided with the necessary support through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
He also claimed to have gotten tired of violence, and from running and hiding due to the intensified security operations being conducted by government troops.
“We felt that the government is sincere in its efforts to give us a chance to live a peaceful life again with our families that is why we opted to lay down our arms,” he said.
The former CPP-NPA Terrorists are now undergoing necessary procedures to facilitate their inclusion in the E-CLIP.
Lieutenant Colonel Romeo C Jimenea, the Commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion, said they are currently coordinating with various Local Government Units (LGU) and government agencies to ensure that the former terrorists would be able to avail of necessary support and benefits.
“We are doing all we can to help our fellow Filipinos return to the normal and peaceful life that they have abandoned when they joined the communist-terrorist organization. We are glad they finally found the courage to do the right thing for themselves and their families,” he said.
The government and military expect more surrenders this year due to the implementation of comprehensive Community Support Programs backed by intensified security operations against communists-terrorists and other lawless elements.
Brig. Gen. Andres C. Centino, the Commander of the 401st Brigade who is leading the campaign to rid Agusan del Sur of CNTs and their supporters, encouraged the remaining active CPP-NPA terrorists to surrender while they still can.
“E-CLIP is by far the most comprehensive program that we can offer to our brothers who are still waging a futile war against the government. There is no better time for them to surrender, than now,” Centino said.
Meanwhile, Brigadier General Franco Nemesio M Gacal, the Commander of 4th Infantry Division, commended the 26th Infantry Battalion and 401st Brigade for facilitating the smooth surrender of the former CTs.
He said this is proof that there is a peaceful life that awaits former CPP-NPA terrorists who chose to return to the folds of law.
“We cannot continue killing each other because our country and its people will only suffer. The government is doing all it can to promote a just and long-lasting peace by facilitating the delivery of basic social services especially to poor and marginalized communities. We encourage everyone to unite and give peace a chance because it is the best we can offer to the next generation,” Gacal said.