DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's latest call for New People's Army (NPA) rebels to lay down their arms and live a normal life again.
"The President's latest call for the NPA fighters to lay down their arms, return to society, and live normal lives only shows that he is giving the NPA every chance at achieving a peaceful resolution to the longstanding armed conflict,” he said.
He urged the members of the communist group to be part of the change that Duterte wanted to achieve during his leadership for the betterment of the country and the lives of the people.
Lorenzana said Duterte's offer to provide the members of the leftist group with livelihood and housing only shows his sincerity to attain long-lasting peace in the region in which they are fully supporting.
On Tuesday, following his trip to Japan, Duterte encouraged the NPA rebels to surrender as he expressed willingness to talk to them although the peace talks have already been terminated.
He also vowed to give NPA surrenderees houses from the National Housing Authority and livelihood.
He also expressed support to the initiative of his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to hold localized talks with the rebels.
In May, Duterte suspended the fifth round of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA following the series of attacks the group conducted against the government troops despite the ongoing peace process.
Although he earlier said he is no longer interested to push through with the peace talks, Duterte said he is not yet ready to give up on it.
"Fifty years in the making, then you are another 50 years. We can talk continuously with the left. I am not about ready to give up everything and anything in the altar of peace for our country," he said.
On Thursday, eight NPA members surrendered and turned over their firearms to security forces in Sultan Kudarat.
"They were very tired and hungry after months of evading our patrols in the forests. It is fortunate that they heard about the good stories about the other rebels who had surrendered to our unit in the past months," Captain Rogelio Agustin Jr., the Commanding Officer of the Charlie Company, 33rd Infantry Battalion said.
Michael Galing, 37, one of the surrenderees said they learned about the ongoing efforts of the local government to resolve their community problems which made them want to surrender.
"Mayor Randy Ecija Jr. and the Army have extended their assistance to the Manobo tribe. We now believe that the government can solve our problems such as the land grabbing in our ancestral lands," he said.
At least 60 NPA members have already surrendered to the Philippine Army. (SunStar Philippines)