By: Jennifer P. Rendon
HARDSHIPS and starvation forced two purported local New People’s Army (NPA) leaders to surrender to military authorities in Iloilo.
The surrenderees, identified only as alias Aguila, 51, of Calinog, Iloilo, and alias Baby, 33, of Tubungan, both said life within the NPA movement is far from what was promised to them.
Aguila was the team leader of NPA-Komiteng Rehiyon Panay (KRP)’s Special Partisan Unit while Baby was the political guide and medical officer of Squad 2 of NPA-KRP’s Southern Front-Suyak Platoon.
Their surrender was processed separately but they finally yielded on Friday, July 19, 2019.
“Gutom kag kabudlay lang naagom namon. Layo gid sa ginhambal nila sa amon,” Aguila said referring to their leaders who recruited them into joining the movement.
He was also promised of a monthly salary but received none.
He said they went through extreme hunger and fatigue. He even referred to their experience as a never-ending suffering.
Aguila said he had enough, pointing that he witnessed that the NPA’s allegedly ideology is non-existent.
He was recruited when he was just 15 years old.
“Whatever’s left of me, I want to dedicate that to my family, my children especially,” Aguila said.
While at the movement, Aguila said he was not really into ambuscade.
Instead, his expertise was on agaw-armas (gun confiscation) operations, which boosted the armed capability of the NPA group.
Just like Aguila, Baby was also recruited when she was still a minor.
The then 17-year old Baby was brainwashed into believing that the government had not looked after them.
There were several times that she attempted to surrender but she was threatened until she got the courage to finally end the armed struggle.
Lieutenant Colonel Joel Benedict Batara, 61st Infantry Battalion commanding officer, said Aguila surrendered a Colt rifle (serial number 9014574), a cap magazine and five pieces of 5.56mm ammunitions, and a vintage rifle with 10 rounds of 7.62 ammunitions.
On the other hand, Baby turned over a Springfield 30 caliber rifle, 18 rounds of caliber .30 ammunition, a caliber .38 pistol with 6 ammunition, 3 empty shells of caliber .40mm ammunition, and subversive documents of high intelligence value.
The surrender of Aguila and Baby has brought to 137 the total number of NPA members who have surrendered in Panay Island following the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) in 2016.
Three years ago, 21 rebels surrendered but decreased to 3 the following year.
In 2018, the number has dramatically leaped to 66 and this year saw 47 surrenderees.
For Batara, Aguila and Baby did the right decision to turn their backs on the armed struggle.
“They have finally realized that it just brought them suffering, and sometimes, death, not only to those who have joined the movement but to their families, as well. Just try to imagine kung may anak ka na matagal ka nang hinihintay pero bumalik kang isang malamig na bangkay?” Batara quipped.
Their surrender should be considered as a second chance for a new life with their loved ones.
Under the E-CLIP, both Aguilar and Baby will receive P15,000 immediate assistance; P50,000 livelihood assistance, and firearm remuneration for their surrendered guns.
The immediate and livelihood assistance are component benefits of the E-CLIP that will offer complete package assistance to former rebels.
The immediate assistance is for the mobilization expenses of the former rebels while his/her enrollment in the program is being processed.
Livelihood assistance, on one hand, is a support given for sustenance.
The other E-CLIP benefits that surrenderees could avail include reintegration assistance, halfway house assistance, Philhealth entombment and medical assistance, housing assistance, modified conditional cash transfer, legal assistance, and healing and reconciliation initiatives.