TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has welcomed the surrender of a young fighter of the New People’s Army (NPA) after repeated calls for him to return to his family.
Brig. Gen. Zosimo Oliveros, commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Brigade, said on Wednesday night the decision of 18-year-old Erwin Tigbawan alias Jordan was a result of efforts of soldiers, parents, and friends to rescue the young recruit.
“This is the best Christmas gift we received this year. In the spirit of Christmas, I will reiterate our call to all deceived members of the NPA in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Biliran to put down their weapons and return to the mainstream of the society,” Oliveros said.
The official issued the statement four days after Jordan surrendered to authorities in Kananga, Leyte, and turned over his NPA-issued M16 rifle.
Oliveros said the young rebel was convinced to surrender after a concerned comrade secretly relayed to Jordan that his parents have been pleading for his return.
“When he found a rare opportunity to escape from his CPP-NPA unit that hostage him somewhere in a mountain village of Kananga town in Leyte, Jordan made a dash to freedom and went straight to the waiting arms of his parents in Monterico village, this city,” the army official added.
The military made a call for him to surrender after Rochelle May Bacalso, 21 was killed in a clash between the communist terrorist group and soldiers on Nov. 27 in the mountains of Kananga. Bacalso is Jordan’s recruiter.
Three days later after the bloody encounter, Jordan was among the small band of rebels who fought with soldiers in Rizal village. The firefight has displaced over 400 families on Nov. 30.
Jordan joined the NPA middle of this year after he got an offer from Bacalso to work in farmland in Kananga.
Instead of landing a job, he was indoctrinated with basic Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA- National Democratic Front (NDF) propaganda, forced to engage in NPA’s illegal operations, and trained to fight government forces.
After Bacalso’s death, the military reached out to Jordan’s father, Edgar, to cooperate on the possible rescue of his son.
The father is a former member of the CPP-established small farmers’ group in Eastern Visayas.
Since mid-September, the army has been posting calls for Jordan to surrender few days after the encounter between striking troops of the Army’s 93rd Infantry Battalion and the remnants of marauding NPA under Juanito Selleza alias Tibor at Sitio Kanawagan, Poblacion, Kananga.
Government forces reiterated their call to cooperate for the surrender of other newly-recruited NPA warriors identified as Lito, 17; Kulot, 14; and Titing, 17, all from Kananga.
“We can work together for the improvement of our people. You don’t have to bear arms to correct social injustices. We can address them in many peaceful and legal ways. The CPP-NPA-NDF is only capitalizing on these social issues to topple our government and seize political power thru the barrel of the gun. Let us stop the senseless killing,” Oliveros added.
The NPA, the armed wing of the CPP, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)