NPA rebels yield guns, explosives; Makabayan bloc banners seized
By Connie Calipay and Mar Serrano / Philippine News Agency
LEGAZPI CITY – Seeing how the lives of their former comrades changed after returning to the government fold, more members of the communist terrorist group (CTG) in Masbate decided to surrender, bringing along their weapons.
In a statement on Friday, Capt. John Paul Belleza, 9th Infantry Division (9ID) spokesperson, said eight members of “Militia ng Bayan” of the New People's Army (NPA) yielded to elements of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) who were conducting security operations in Barangay San Isidro, Palanas town on May 6.
“Also turned in by the group were four different firearms, such as M16 rifle, homemade shotgun, six caliber .38 revolvers, three caliber .357 pistols and assorted ammunition,” he said.
Lt. Col. Siegfried Felipe Awichen, 2IB commander, thanked the surrenderers for making the life-changing decision of abandoning the terrorist group.
On the same day, the 2IB received information from concerned citizens that a certain Atibagos who is an active member of Larangan 2, Komiteng Probinsya 4 of NPA’s Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC), was in possession of firearms and explosives.
The troops immediately proceeded to the reported area but Atibagos managed to escape.
A quick search in the vicinity of his residence resulted in the recovery of a .357 caliber pistol, anti-personnel mine, laptop, two printers, projector, welding machine, amplifier, solar panel, two camouflage uniforms of the Philippine Army and Philippine Air Force, signal booster, and banners of the Makabayan bloc -- Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT Teachers), and militant groups Concerned Drivers and Operators-Piston (Condor-Piston), Bayan and Karapatan.
Upon verification, it was learned that the recovered anti-personnel mine from Atibagos' residence matched with the same kind that was detonated in Uson town on May 1 that killed two civilians and injured five others.
Col. Aldwine Almase, commander of 903rd Infantry Brigade, thanked the residents of Barangay San Isidro for the information about Atibagos, saying that if the said firearms and explosives were not seized, they might have be used against government troops and innocent civilians.
"Napakalaki ng papel na ginagampanan ng mga Masbateño sa sunod-sunod nating tagumpay sa Masbate. (Masbateños have a great role in a continuous win here in Masbate). This should serve as a warning to the CTG that they should leave the province because the residents despise them so much," Almase said.
Makabayan bloc unmasked
Maj. Gen. Henry Robinson Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Bicolandia, said the seizure of the banners of Makabayan bloc and various militant groups, unmasked their true color.
"The Makabayan Bloc and these groups have been accusing us of red-tagging. Pero ang katotohanan, hindi natin kailangang gawin 'yan. Sabi nga sa kasabihan, 'kahit anong tago, sisingaw at sisingaw pa rin ang baho.' (But the truth is, we don’t need to do it. As the saying goes, foul odor will stink no matter how much they try to conceal it). How are they going to explain this? Will they continue to deny their affiliation with the CTG and their involvement in the five-decade insurgency in our country which has claimed precious lives? Sa muli, nananawagan tayo sa mga Bicolano, patuloy tayong magkaisa at sabay-sabay nating tapusin ang armadong tunggaliang ito (Once again, we are calling on all Bicolanos, let’s continue to unite and together, let’s end this armed struggle)," Robinson said.
Aside from the growing support of Bicolanos and the intensified implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to end insurgency, JTF Bicolandia also attributed the significant accomplishments of the military to the effective and successful joint operations of the Army and the Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The continuous rise in the number of surrenderers and neutralization of CTG members during armed encounters and apprehensions as well as the discovery of arms cache and war materiel are the fruits of the police and soldiers' consistent improvement of its interoperability, Robinson said.
"We, in the JTF Bicolandia will continue to work hand in hand with our counterparts from the PNP to sustain our gains here in Bicol and create a great impact in our campaign against communist insurgency. To the Bicolanos, rest assured that your Army and police will not waver in our thrust to serve and protect you," he added.
The NPA, along with the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)