Mass Surrender of 290 NPA Rebels a “Huge Victory in Struggle for Peace over Violent Conflict”

Lt. General Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command that covers the areas of eastern, southern and some portions of Central Mindanao, is being accompanied by 701st Infantry Brigade Commander Brigadier General Reuben Basiao

City of Mati, Davao Oriental — It is a huge victory in the struggle for peace over violent conflict.

290 members of the New People’s Army from the neighboring Compostela Valley province have decided to surrender to the Philippine Army’s 701st Infantry (Kagitingan) Brigade based in Davao Oriental’s capital, the City of Mati.

The 290 NPA surrenderees from Pantukan, Compostela Valley having a tour at the Happy Home Compound in the City of Mati

Lt. General Benjamin Madrigal, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command that covers the areas of eastern, southern and some portions of Central Mindanao, accompanied the NPA surrenderers in touring the sprawling camp of the Army’s 701st Infantry Brigade where the Happy Home is, a local government-run facility that has become a new beehive of Communist rebels wishing to embrace the fold of law. Being the first of its kind in the whole country, the Happy Home entices the insurgents to leave the decades-long armed struggle in exchange for a huge financial assistance and a host of other benefits, among them a free education and livelihood trainings.

Some of the high-powered firearms surrendered by the 290 NPA rebels

ARMED STRUGGLE IS IRRELEVANT

“The armed struggle has only brought suffering, death and misery to our people. Stop using violence to further any political agenda. We are all Filipinos, and killing each other will not solve our problems,” says a statement released by the Army’s 701st Infantry Brigade, headed by Brigadier General Reuben Basiao.

The Philippine Army statement adds: “There are many ways to solve our problems and fighting is not one of the solutions. Let us participate and help in peacefully solving our problems. Take advantage of the government’s social integration program. It will provide you an opportunity to return back to your families and communities and together we shall solve our problems the peaceful way. The AFP is sincere in its offer of peace. We will ensure the personal safety of those who will choose to lay down their arms and peacefully return to their families. Lay down your arms and return to the comfort of your families and friends. Live peacefully and take care of your children as they grow and become productive members of the community. We will ensure your safety and well-being when you lay down your arms and live peacefully with your families. We will work with other stakeholders to ensure your safety and well-being and that of your family. We should actively advocate peace. We should work together to put forward the agenda of peace among the people. We all aspire for a peaceful country. We should work together for a just and lasting peace without the use of arms and violence. We should shun violence to solve our country’s problems. We should collaborate with one another to address the root causes of conflict to achieve just and lasting peace.”

REGRETS

Saying the “costs of war are incalculable,” and that “In war, there are no winners, only losers,” the 290 NPA surrenderers have expressed their “deepest regrets” to have bartered a life of safety to one that is laden with famine and extreme dangers in the jungle. During a press conference with journalists based in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental, the former rebels recounted that “food was always scarce and at times none at all in the jungle.

The mass surrender of the 290 NPA rebels is the result of the Community Support Program conducted by the Philippine Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Araibo in the town of Pantukan in Compostela Valley province. Lt. Col. Palmer Parungao, the commanding officer of the 66th Infantry Battalion, says they launched a three-day “mass surrender campaign” in Barangay Araibo which resulted to the mass surrender of two hundred male NPA rebels and 90 female NPA rebels. The rebels have also surrendered 34 low and high-powered firearms and one Improvised Explosive Device.

Brigadier General Reuben Basiao says the surrenderers are “victims of the lies and deception of the communist terrorists who continue to organize and extort the masses in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas. Your Army through its Community Support Program will continue to bridge the gap and help the government deliver its basic services and establish an environment that is peaceful and conflict-resilient communities.”

The NPA surrenderers wants to avail of the government’s Happy Home program here. The Happy Home is the first and only of its kind in the whole country. The local government says it is willing to “pay the price” in running the Happy Home for “peace and human development in our time.”

“We have learned from former comrades that the Happy Home program here would give us the best chance in life, a better life for ourselves and our children,” says a female NPA surrenderer. “I think this program would give us a hope of life where we and our families can live safely and happily to pursue our grandest dreams. I hope this program would give us the hope of prosperity and abundance,” says another surrenderer.

The 701st Infantry Brigade here is complementing the programs of the Happy Home through its Ugnayan Center that facilitates the processing of former rebels and it runs a “Deradicalization Program” before the rebels will be absorbed in the half-way house. A total of P1.8 million was already given to the formers rebels. Each of the former rebels received P65,000 in financial assistance for them to start a new life. “We have done our part, so we hope you will do your part. We have capacitated you during your stay in Happy Home. Now, you know how to use the computers. We hope you will become responsible citizens, helping our country to achieve sustainable peace,” says Yvette Tolentino-Sunga, provincial director of the Department of Interior and the Local Government here during a graduation ceremony for the former rebels. By Ferdinand Zuasola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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