By Freddie Lazaro
STA. CRUZ, Ilocos Sur – An army official has reported the surrender of a total of 55 supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Ilocos Sur at the headquarters of the 81st Infantry Battalion (81st IB) in Barangay Bugbuga on Monday here.
Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo Mariñas, Jr., commander of the 81st IB, said on Wednesday that the former NPA supporters were members of the Underground Mass Organizations (UGMO) in the towns of Salcedo and Sta. Cruz, both in Ilocos Sur.
Out of the 55 surrenderers, 33 of them were residents of Sitio Linggawa, Barangay Pidpid, Sta. Cruz town, while other 22 were residents from Barangay Lucbuban in Salcedo town.
Of the 33 UGMO member-surrenderers from Santa Cruz, three were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army’s (CPP-NPA) Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL), six were Kabataang Makabayan (KM), seven were from Malayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (MKBK), and 17 were Pambansang Kilusan ng Magsasaka (PKM).
On the other hand, the 22 surrenderers from the municipality of Salcedo are composed of four Milisyang Bayan (MB), seven KM and 11 PKM.
Mariñas, Jr. said the significant number of surrenderers could be attributed to the combined efforts of the army and the police through their re-tooled community cupport program teams for delivering the enhanced services in the different areas of Ilocos Sur.
“We are now assessing the surrenderees particular thosed members of the SPL and MB to identify whether they are qualified to receive the benefits from the Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP) and other livelihood skills training offered by other agencies,” said Mariñas.
He said that the government will also assist the former UGMO members through different programs like a peace-building seminar to help them cope with the challenges they are set to face after surrendering and equip them with programs and trainings that will enable them to establish conflict resilient communities.
Major General Lenard Agustin, the commander of the army’s 7th Infantry Division, commended the police and the soldiers as he said, “CPP-NPA-NDF-influenced communities are now coming back to the folds of law because the government’s efforts are visible through the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 or the whole-of-nation approach. In the Army, we will ensure continued efforts to put an end to the local communist armed conflict; and we will most assuredly protect and help those who come out to live a life of peace.”
“The presence of the soldiers and police in NPA-influenced areas positively affects these communities. The security forces have done their best to convince the NPA supporters to go back to the folds of the law with an assurance that the government will protect and help them live in peace,” Agustin added.