ARMED Forces of the Philippines chief General Emmanuel Bautista is seeing more New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to surrender in huge number after the turnover of 97 former rebels carrying firearms in Patin-ay town in Agusan del Sur Wednesday morning.
“This is actually the second massive turnover of those who surrendered this year. The first was in March when around 72 former NPA rebels mostly from Bukidnon surrendered. As evidenced by the massive numbers of those who surrendered, you can really see for yourself what is really happening. We hope his trend will go on and on,” said Bautista.
Bautista said this will have a ripple effect in the coming months.
“We shouldn’t be killing and waging war on each other, we should be helping each other as the real essence of our ‘Bayanihan.’ And this is our call to everyone especially those who are still in the mountains that hopefully we should all be working together,” he said.
More troops in Northeastern M'nao
“Because of the big decrease in the insurgency problem in Luzon, we are pulling out troops there and sending more into Northeastern Mindanao. In fact, a lot of the areas in Luzon are now peaceful and enjoying development. Even in Central Mindanao, after the signing of the peace agreement we have seen the decrease in hostilities, so we are hoping that the peace will also influence this area in Mindanao,” said Bautista.
However, Bautista said the people’s support is vital to co-exist with the increased in troops.
“But the main solution is not only in the part of the military, because no matter how big the number of troops we bring in it will not work without the help and cooperation of the communities and the people. This problem will never end. That’s why we need people’s help to support us in our efforts, to work with us find lasting peace in our land because everybody will benefit from it,” Bautista said.
“Of the 97, only 33 of the rebel returnees are regular NPA members while 61 are members of the militia ng bayan and barrio committees. Three are from Surigao del Sur and the 70 are Manobos. A total of P881,750 was handed over to them in exchange of the 93 assorted firearms that they surrendered to us,” Lieutenant Colonel Jose Leonard Gille, acting spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said.
Based on the records, most of the rebels came from Sitio Mactan in Barangay Kasapa 1 in the town of Loreto in Agusan del Sur and majority of the 65 assorted firearms surrendered are homemade.
Not NPA rebels
In an e-mailed statement on May 9, 2014, the NPA rebels in Bukidnon claimed that majority of those who surrendered in March were not members of the NPA.
“The armed forces have incorporated in their Community Operation for Peace and Development (COPD) under their Oplan Bayanihan a tactic to legalize their claims of success by putting up fake surrenderees. They have gathered residents and forced them to claim they are members of the NPA which is as an act of desperation,” the statement read.
It furthered that putting up false NPA rebels as rebel returnees is not new and has been going on as part of the army’s psychological warfare strategy.
Bautista, on the other hand, denied the claim of the NPA and urged members of the media to find out the truth.