14 members, 325 supporters cut ties with NPA in Agusan Norte
By Alexander Lopez / Philippine News Agency
BUTUAN CITY – The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has recently lost a vital area in Las Nieves town in Agusan del Norte with the mass surrender of its barrio members and underground supporters, military officials said.
At least 14 active NPA in the barrios that communists call "militia ng bayan", and 325 members of underground mass organizations (UGMOs) from Barangay Consorcia, Las Nieves, formally cut their ties with the communist rebels during the pledge of allegiance ceremony held in said barangay on Friday.
They also surrendered nine caliber 22 (Airgun) rifles, four homemade shotguns with two live ammunition, and a caliber 38 pistol with five live ammunition.
Lt. Col. Julius Cesar C. Paulo, the Army's 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB) commander, said Saturday the surrenderers acted the "main support mechanism" of the NPA rebels in the area for many years.
“The mass surrender was triggered when a team from 23IB engaged the local officials and the residents of Barangay Consocia last year. Last December, we conducted a consultation and dialogue with the residents where they ventilated their concerns on the continued terroristic activities of the NPA rebels in their locality,” Paulo said in a statement.
He said the mass surrender came after the series of dialogue by the 23IB until the early part of the year.
“For years, the people get tired of the presence of the NPA in their community with no progress and development. Their daily lives were filled with uncertainties with the vulnerable peace and order situation with the constant presence of armed rebels,” Paulo said.
Among the rebel militias who surrendered was alias “Nong” who served the rebels for a decade.
“My main task is to collect contributions from the residents in our place. I also buy rice and the other needs of the rebels. There were times that I would facilitate the medication of wounded NPA rebels. I followed what they asked me to do and I did not refuse because of fear they might suspect me,” Nong was quoted as saying in the dialect.
He said he later realized it was wrong to force ordinary farmers, farm laborers, and other poor residents to contribute what meager resources they have to the NPA.
“I carried it with my conscience that I collected contributions from them. With the presence of the rebels, there’s no way we can free ourselves from poverty,” he said.
Paulo assured the surrenderers of the government's continued support.
“Now that the people of Consorcia abandoned the communist movement, the government, especially the local government unit can now implement development initiatives, programs and services in the barangay,” he said.
Las Nieves Mayor Avelina S. Rosales recognized the courage of the residents in denouncing the NPA rebels, saying the local government will immediately facilitate the delivery of programs and services to the village. (PNA)