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Monday, September 10, 2012
THIS is welcome news. But I’m a doubting Thomas. Show, not tell, us that this time it’s for real.
The Tabara-Paduano Group (TPG) of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) has reportedly agreed to surrender its firearms, even without pay.
The TPG group’s inventory counted its members at 716, and over 500 of them are based in Negros Occidental with the rest spread in Negros Oriental, Iloilo, Antique, and Aklan.
The TPG has roughly 400 plus firearms and over 300 explosives. The rebels will be compelled to turn these over within six months from the signing of the closure agreement, promised Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo, executive director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
But I cannot help but recall what happened in the aftermath of the Maguindanao Massacre when Ampatuan town CAFGU/CVO members surrendered 720 high-powered rifles to military and police authorities.
When government security forces held a follow-up, week-long series of search operations, however, they uncovered a big weapons cache of light artillery and heavy infantry weapons, including commando weapons, explosives, ammunition, and military uniforms near the mansion of the Ampatuan clan in Shariff Aguak, the Maguindanao capitol.
It turned out the Ampatuans voluntarily surrendered some weapons, mostly World War II vintage rifles such as M1-Garand rifles. The Ampatuans have cynically adopted the environmentalist concept of “less is more.” Better to lose something than lose the heavier, more expensive and important firepower.
Of course, the TPG’s weapons are nowhere near the Ampatuans’ arsenal. But the $64 dollar question remains: can we take the word of ALL RPA-ABB members that will hand over ALL their firearms to the government?
When RPA-ABB goon Ka Dodoy confronted our group in Sitio Melancholy, Cádiz in 2006, he sported a sawed-off Arisaka military bolt action rifle that the Japanese Imperial Army used in World War II. (I’m a World War II buff, and I can recognize many of the weapons used during the Great War).
When he went back the following day with the RPA-ABB goon squad under Ka Reymar, they were all sporting newer weapons such as the M203 grenade launcher, an M60 light machine gun, M14 rifles, and of course Vietnam vintage M16 rifles. No World War II weapons, nada, nada, nada.
The military will provide the RPA-ABB members with government-issued guns to protect themselves from the New People’s Army. Only duly-trained RPA-ABB members are supposedly allowed to carry these weapons when on duty inside their resettlement area, or when assigned to secure the production base. When off duty, the guns are to be returned to their designated military handlers.
But will the military have enough time to monitor how these weapons are used when they have their hands full confronting the NPAs? What if some RPA-ABB members moonlight on “special projects”?
Let’s not forget that accused in the murder of Judge Henry Arles are RPA-ABB members Jessie Daguia, Alejandro “Vincent” Capunong, Eddie Fortunado, vice commander Marvin Salve and unit commander Rustom Puro of the RPA-ABB in the 6th district of Negros Occidental, and Gerald Tabujara.
It took the National Bureau of Investigation to identify these suspects while RPA-ABB spokesperson Victor Sumulong insists that the accused were framed on the Arles murder case. Let the court decide who did their homework in coming up with suspects—the NBI or the RPA-ABB.
Let me be clear, though. I’m for the closure of the peace agreement between our government and the RPA-ABB. Turning guns into plowshares are always welcome.
But I’m jaded with this group. I hope our law enforcers realize that the signing of the peace agreement is not the end of all trouble from this gang. Otherwise, the plowshares might turn out to be an assassins’ gun and another Arles liquidated in 2013 when the local election fever heats up.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 10, 2012.