A COUPLE and three other communist rebels have abandoned the armed struggle as they turned themselves in to the army's 26th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Poblacion, Loreto, Agusan del Sur.
The military identified the former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) as "Javier," a former unit commander and his wife "Ann," a squad political officer and supply officers "Ricky" and "Yaw" and team leader "James."
They were said to be members of Guerilla Front 34 of the CPP-NPA's Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) that operates in the boundaries of Caraga and Compostela Valley Province.
The five former NPA combatants also surrender their assorted weapons and paraphernalia including two caliber Carbine Rifles with magazines, a caliber 30 sub-machine gun with magazines, a KG9 sub-machine gun, two shotguns, a caliber 45 pistol with one magazine, a fragmentation grenade and an Anti-Personnel Mine.
In a statement, the military claimed the couple's decision to return to the folds of the law came "after realizing the deception they have fallen into for many years."
"The couple finally found an opportunity to abandon the armed group after a friend told them about the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).
The commander of 26IB, Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Jimenea said the five were all victims of the CPP-NPA's vicious lies and propaganda especially "Ricky" who was a minor when he was recruited.
"The International Humanitarian Law prohibits the recruitment of persons under 18 years old to become combatant, even in local armed conflict," Jimenea said.
Jimenea attributed the influx of surrenders from Loreto to the recent declaration of CPP-NPA and its supporters as "persona non grata" by the Municipal Peace and Order Council and the Manobo Tribal leaders.
Records show that since January, 151 NPA members from Agusan del Norte have already surrendered to the government. They also handed over 50 firearms of various calibers.
401st Brigade Commander Colonel Allan Hambala also vowed to help the five former NPA members to live normal lives again through the government's assistance program.
He lauded the troops for facilitating the surrender and said the military will be relentless in its offensive operations against the remaining NPA guerillas as the nation strives to end local communist armed conflict. (Alwen Saliring)