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Free vaccines offered to surrendering rebels

By Dempsey Reyes / The Manila Times

COMMUNIST rebels have been invited for free vaccinations by a military commander in Mindanao after some slain and arrested New People's Army (NPA) members in recent operations in Bukidnon were found to have been tested positive for Covid-19. But first, they have to surrender to authorities and give up their arms struggle before they can be inoculated.

Ten NPA rebels were arrested by government troops in a recent clash in San Fernando, Bukidnon and three of which and one of their comrades who died in the encounter have tested positive for the virus, according to Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Another clash transpired in Valencia City recently wherein three captured rebels also have Covid-19.

For Brawner, the Covid-19 results of the slain and captured rebels could be a sign that several members of the NPA have Covid-19. This prompted him to assure the communist rebels that the military is willing to provide Covid-19 vaccines to the group "if they will decide to abandon the armed struggle and cooperate with us."

"We want to let them know Covid-19 chooses no one on who to infect whether that be soldiers, police, government staff, citizens and even members of the NPA, all can be infected by the deadly Covid-19," Brawner said.

Nevertheless, he also appealed to the communist rebels to "abandon the armed struggle," saying the country is currently facing a more serious and deadlier problem, which is Covid-19.

Brawner was particularly appealing to Jorge Madlos alias Ka Oris and his group to "return to the peaceful path now and go down from the mountains so that they can be given vaccines and proper medical attention."

He said the country's vaccine czar and Peace Process Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. has pledged that even communist rebels will be provided with Covid-19 vaccines as a way to express "the government's sincerity in calling for reconciliation amid this pandemic that significantly changed our way of life."

"Your military is promising that all of you (communist rebels) will be vaccinated along with your surrender and your choice to have a new and safer life," Brawner said.

"As we still await the additional vaccines, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are most willing to share to the [NPA rebels] the vaccines intended for our soldiers," he added.



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