2 pregnant NPA rebels, 7 others yield in MisOr
By Nef Luczon / Philippine News Agency
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Some two pregnant communist rebels, along with seven others, surrendered to the military and received assistance on Aug. 19.
Marga Lenyel, seven-month-old pregnant, and Angie Pinaapol, five-month-old pregnant, both aged 23, surrendered to the Army's 58th Infantry Battalion (58IB) in Claveria town, Bukidnon.
Lenyel said her previous experiences when she was a combatant of the New People’s Army (NPA) were "vastly different" from what she is experiencing now that she has returned to the fold of the law.
"We were not taken care of, especially pregnant women (fighters). We traversed the jungles in darkness at night because there were no lights. Even when you asked permission to visit your family, they (higher-ranking NPA officers) will not allow you to do so, that is why some (other fighters) who escaped without informing them," she said in vernacular.
She added that even a simple visit to her first-born child who was then three weeks old was prohibited by her former superiors, and when she was given the opportunity to do so, she has to return immediately. She was able to meet her son when he turned two years old.
During a simple turnover at the headquarters, Lenyel and the eight other former rebels were given livelihood assistance and other government services under the "Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP)."
The former rebels also surrendered their firearms and ammunition.
Since all of them were residents of Malitbog town, in Bukidnon province, the local government unit (LGU) provided food packs, PHP5,000 cash aid each, hygiene kits, sleeping kits, among others.
They received PHP10,000 cash aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development Region 10 office.
Col. Adonis Ariel G. Orio, Commander of 402nd Infantry Brigade, assured that the two pregnant women will be taken care of with their medical especially when they give birth.
He said the surrenderers were real people, debunking the claims of critics about fabricated or "recycled" surrenders, as they have a stringent process of identification and profiling.
The Communist Party of the Philippines - NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Village for ex-rebels
Meanwhile, Malitbog Mayor Osmundo Dela Rosa said the LGU has always been supportive of former rebels surrendering to the government even before.
He even has planned that about 15 to 20 hectares, out of the 50-hectare total land area of the municipality will be converted into a village for them, where they can live, farm, and with facilities like schools, markets, and government offices.
He said he brought up this plan to Region 10's Peace and Order Council since he became mayor in 2007.
He hoped that with the establishment of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict through Executive Order No. 70 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, the plan will materialize.
“As a public servant, the Whole-of-Nation Approach plays a crucial role in ending Communist Armed Conflict. This approach, rather than a solely military solution, was thought to be very significant and effective in countering terrorism and violent extremism. This isn't only about putting an end to the insurgency. More crucially, it aspires to achieve inclusive and long-term peace in conflict-affected and vulnerable communities through increased development and other peace-building initiatives," he said.
Noting the overwhelming support of national line agencies and the turnout of a greater number of surrenderers, 58IB's Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Ricky Canatoy said the military is winning in the insurgency.
"We are winning in our effort to end the local communist armed conflict in Malitbog, Manolo Fortich, and Impasug-ong (all towns in Bukidnon). And we have to let the public know that we are winning," he said.
Maj. Gen. Romeo S. Brawner Jr., commander of the 4th Infantry Division, told former rebels that staying in the armed group would cause more harm than good, and there would be no point in continuing their fight.
“Those who recognize this finally decide to return to the folds of the law and live tranquil lives. Hunger, physical and emotional exhaustion, inequities within ranks, false promises, no future, deprived communication with families, family break-ups, and unfair treatment are just a few of the reasons why more and more NPA fighters are doing this," he said.
He said the steady decline of NPA forces demonstrates the effectiveness of the government's and troops' numerous peace initiatives and efforts to end the insurgency.
"And, as many of our rebel returnees have confirmed, they all receive decent treatment and assistance from the government, not only through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program but also from other local governments and non-governmental organizations," he said. (PNA)