THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomed on Tuesday, March 6, to its headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City another batch of former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who surrendered to the government.
Lieutenant General Salvador Melchor Mison Jr., AFP vice chief of staff, led the simple welcoming ceremony of the 188 rebel surrenderers who arrived in Manila from Mindanao on Monday.
The most notable NPA surrenderer in the group is Noel Legaspi, also known as Ka Efren, allegedly the deputy secretary and spokesman of the Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR) of the NPA who surrendered with his wife, a medical staff of FSMR, January 15.
Legaspi became a leader of the leftist youth organization League of Filipino Students in 1992 and became a regular member of the NPA six years later.
Just like the other 456 former rebels who visited Manila in two batches in January and February, at the expense of the government, the 188 surrenderers also toured Luneta Park and Intramuros as part of their reorientation on the country's history.
The surrenderers included 537 males and 93 females.
The 188 former rebels were also part of the 683 NPA members who surrendered and met President Rodrigo Duterte in Panacan, Davao City on December 21. They are the last batch of the former rebels to visit Metro Manila.
From Camp Aguinaldo, the rebel surrenderers were brought to Malacanang for a dinner with Duterte.
Meanwhile, the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command said all the female surrenderers will go on a special all-expense paid tour in Hong Kong. The travel date has not been determined because their papers were still being processed.
Earlier, Duterte urged the NPA members to surrender to the authorities and promised to give them livelihood and housing. They will also be given opportunity to undergo training with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
Meanwhile, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison downplayed the supposed surrender of NPA rebels saying that it was all fake and their presentation was just among the government’s propaganda.
“They continue to make the absurd claim that thousands of NPA fighters and their supporters are poised to surrender and disappear soon because they are bored with or tired of fighting oppression and exploitation and are eager to enjoy the new paradise that Duterte has brought about in the Philippines,” he said.
“The Duterte regime looks ridiculous and even funny by staging the fake surrenders of NPA fighters and their supporters. But serious violations of civil and political rights are perpetrated by Duterte and the military in their intensified drive to produce fake surrenders,” he added.
Sison said the surrender of those who claim to be NPA rebels is like the government’s war on drugs particularly the Oplan Tokhang where “people are either coerced or persuaded by barangay officials to surrender as drug addicts for rehabilitation. But the list of surrenderers serves as the basis for Duterte´s death squads in the police to fulfill their quotas of killing drug suspects, collecting cash rewards of 10,000 to 20,000 pesos per victim, earning merits for promotion in rank and getting commissions from funeral parlors.” (SunStar Philippines)