LEGAZPI CITY – At least 82 New People’s Army (NPA) members and mass base supporters surrendered to military authorities in Masbate over the weekend, the Army’s 9th Infantry Division (9ID) public affairs office said on Monday.
Capt. John Paul Belleza, Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) chief, in an interview, said the mass surrender brought to 111 the total number of communist rebels and supporters operating in the province that have gone back to the fold of the law since January.
The surrenderers include nine NPA regulars, 40 members of the Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL), and 33 members of the Militia ng Bayan (MB).
The returnees yielded over 15 firearms composed of six .38-caliber handguns, three homemade shotguns, two .357 magnum, a .45 caliber pistol, a 9mm handgun, a carbine, and an improvised handgun.
The surrenderers were presented to the Masbate Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (MPTF-ELCAC) and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) committee at the government halfway house in Masbate City.
The surrenderers were given gift packs as an early Christmas present by the provincial government of Masbate.
Belleza said aside from cash, livelihood, housing, medical and educational assistance from the E-CLIP committee, the rebel returnees can also avail of the various programs and benefits from the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC).
Enlightened from the deceptions of the terrorist group, the former members and supporters of the communist terrorist group will undergo the process of reintegration into mainstream society.
Lt. Col. Siegfried Felipe Awichen, commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (2IB) based in Masbate, commended his troops for going above and beyond their call of duty, which contributed significantly to the mass surrender.
Meanwhile, 903rd Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Noe Alberto Peñafiel expressed his gratitude for the Bicolanos’ active participation in the government campaign towards sustainable peace and development.
The Joint Task Force Bicolandia (JTFB) under Maj. Gen. Henry Robinson Jr. stressed that this new batch of surrenderers who chose the path of peace is a great manifestation that the government’s peace and development efforts are being implemented successfully, thereby helping create conflict-free and resilient communities.
“This massive snowball of returnees to the folds of the law will not be the last. Aside from our intensified focused military operations, collaborative efforts between the government and the local populace, the hardships these former members experienced inside the terrorist group led them back home,” Robinson said.
Robinson, Col. Joriz Cantoria, director of the Masbate Police Provincial Office, Masbate City Mayor Rowena Tuason, and other officials and representatives of various government agencies were present to witness the presentation of the returnees on Saturday.
Before the ceremony, the Provincial Level Security Assessment Forum, which is an initiative of Robinson, was also held.
It was attended by members of the security sector, security officers of vital installations and contractors, as well as LGU officials.
The PLSAF, which was already conducted in Albay, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, and Camarines Norte, aims to strengthen the cooperation of the security sector and the LGU to address various security problems in the Bicol Region. (PNA)