Ex-NPA rebel finds 'hope, belongingness' in mainstream society
By Che Palicte / Philippine News Agency
MAKILALA, North Cotabato – A former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel found "hope and belongingness" after returning to the fold of the law.
“I am now ready to die because I have proven that (the government) is truly for the masses and not the ideologies the NPA injected on us,” Melanio Centino, Sr. said in vernacular in a press conference attended by former rebels Wednesday here.
Known as "Tatay Dodz" in the communist rebel movement, Centino served as an organizer for an NPA propaganda unit for over two decades before finally surrendering early last month.
Centino, however, said he would have surrendered way back in 2007 if it was all up to him, eight years after he was recruited into the NPA.
“They went to Digos and recruited us. In October 1999, I joined them and believed in their promises that they will provide land for our families. They said they will also provide the people with free hospitalization,” Centino, a resident of Digos City in Davao del Sur, recounted.
He soon found out that the promises were "false" and that he fell into the NPA's "deception, and lies".
In 2007, he said he tried to stay away from the communist rebel movement but his colleagues had threatened him, saying the military would sue him and that "I will just spend my life in jail. So I did not pursue it."
In 2015, Centino said he tried again to flee but his colleagues got wind of his plan and threatened him.
“In 2018 I was assigned to organize the masses and I really felt tired and fed up with my routine. I asked again for the freedom that I wanted but they do not want to let me go,” he said.
April 10 this year, he said an anonymous person talked to his family and urged them to persuade him to return to surrender. The man left a note with his number on it.
“I called his number. He promised me that if I’ll surrender, nobody would hurt me. Although I was doubtful of my fate with the military, it was indeed true that they did not harm me. On May 7, was already with the military and they treated me right. Regardless of what I did (as an NPA combatant), they did not scold me or even shouted at me,” he added.
Centino also apologized to the people he recruited to be part of the NPA's Underground Mass Organization (UGMO).
“To all of you, I’m so sorry. And to my comrade Enoy, you are already 66-years-old, I beg you to return to the government. We longed for victory and being in the government is indeed the real victory,” he said, referring to an old colleague at the NPA.
Maj. Gen. Ernesto Torres Jr., commander of the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), said Centino's old unit--the NPA's Pulang Bagani Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (PBC-SMRC) operating in Regions 11 and 12--has been dismantled by the government troops.
Late last week, Torres said the Army's 39 Infantry Battalion (39IB) apprehended four high-value members of PBC-SMRC in Barangay Biangan.
They were identified as Patbon Besas Jr., the secretary of PBC; Rose Ann Saylon, Ronelyn Lucin, the head of their medical staff; Rolando Panday, the PBC squad leader.
Over the weekend, government troops also captured during an armed encounter Merlita Cayog, the platoon medic of PBC-SMRC, as well as NPA fighters Alejandro Ferolino and Vicente Padilla.
Two more PBC-SMRC combatants surrendered in the same week, the military said.
“This is a manifestation of support to the National and Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and a manifestation of good governance,” Torres said.
He said the captured combatants, as well as the surrenderers, would be enrolled with the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).
“But they will also be assessed if they have committed crimes which they should be facing the court. If they will not go to jail, they will undergo a rehabilitation program,” Torres added. (PNA)