Rebels bare hardships in mountain-A A +A
Friday, March 30, 2012
“WE THOUGHT joining the New People’s Army (NPA) will change our life. But nothing happened.”
These were the words of Gevion Balamban, a rebel returnee and a youth leader operating at Cabanglasan area in Bukidnon.
Balamban said they joined rebellion because their life in the mountains was hard even before the NPA came.
He said they trusted the NPA to change their life.
“Until we join, many lives of my relatives were wasted (killed),” he said.
Balamban was one of the 47 NPA rebels who surrendered to government authorities last week. They were presented to Bukidnon Governor Alex Calingasan on Thursday in Malaybalay City.
Balamban said they decided to surrender and return to the government after realizing that whatever they do, their lives would still be the same.
“We think that it is best to surrender because whatever we do, we are still the same and we are just treated as a ‘money-making’ tool by the rebels,” he said.
The 47 NPA rebels who surrendered are comprised of 12 regular members and 35 Militia ng Bayan. Of the number, 27 belong to the Umayamnon tribe operating under Nestor Manlahag in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon; while 17 operated under Rene Dal-anay in San Fernando, Bukidnon (Tigwahanon/Matigsalog Tribe).
Three of them were previously operating under Johnny Boy Masandong Andin-o also in San Fernando, Bukidnon.
The rebels surrendered at least 43 various firearms and explosives that include a Grand Rifle caliber 30, carbine, caliber 45 pistol, caliber 38 revolver, caliber 22 revolver, rifle 7.62 M14 improvise, rifle springfield, rifle caliber 22, homemade shotgun, hand grenade and improvised explosive device.
Calingasan said at least 276 rebels have already surrendered in Bukidnon, while the Provincial Government has released financial assistance amounting to P3.4 million.
He said the rebel-returnees will be given financial assistance, despite the effects of low internal revenue allotment (IRA) of the Provincial Government.
“We want them (rebel returnees) to see that the local and National Government expressed sincerity to help their situation and that we want to help them alleviate their lives especially those who are living in the mountains,” Calingasan said.
Lieutenant General Arthur Tabaquero of the Eastern Mindanao Command said he hoped that other local governments will follow what Calingasan has done in obtaining peace.
“We hope that our occasion today will facilitate the further strengthening of community and convergence in the aspect of helping out our constituents and attain a meaningful life, a society that provides them an opportunity to succeed in their chosen endeavor. I hope it will not just end on helping our brother returnees who return to the government,” Tabaquero said during Thursday’s presentation of the NPA rebels.
“After this ceremony, the most important thing is to look after how they are properly integrated back to their community so that they can immediately start building their lives and will no longer become susceptible to manipulation and exploitation of the communist terrorist,” Tabaquero added.
Earlier, Colonel Romeo R. Gapuz, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, said the large number of surrenderees will surely have a negative impact on the NPA’s morale.
“While the NPAs are celebrating their anniversary and flaunting their ‘empty’ successes against the Filipino people, their comrades here in Bukidnon are surrendering and denouncing this rebel group who duped them. Because of this, we believe there will be more NPA rebels who will go down the mountains as they all realize that their government is truly working for the Filipino people,” he said.
Meanwhile, at least 79 rebel returnees under Benjamin “Ka Nonong” Salusad who surrendered last November were also recognized during the activity after they have finished a training on March 8.
The former rebels are now members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit guarding their areas in San Fernando, Bukidnon. (Michael Andrew W. Yu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on March 31, 2012.