THE Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) released checks worth P1.169-million for distribution to the 36 rebel returnees from Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions in a ceremony at the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) in Camp Evangelista, Barangay Patag Thursday.
Half of the rebels came from Agusan del Sur, others from Agusan del Norte, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.
Lieutenant Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, Eastmincom chief, personally handed over the checks.
In his talk during the turnover ceremony, Cruz assured that the war in Agusan del Sur is ending soon citing that the number of rebel returnees and the 42 high-powered firearms laid had been the biggest in the history of the 4ID.
NPA not the state’s enemy
Cruz emphasized that the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed group of the Maoist revolutionaries, is not the enemy of the state but the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which directs the rebel commanders to execute their “tactical offensives and terroristic acts against the communities.”
“Lilinawin ko lang po. Sana maintindihan natin na ang ginagawa ng NPA, kasi ang totoong nag-uutos sa kanila na gumawa ng karahasan ay ang kanilang partido, ang CPP na nandoon mismo sa loob ng barangay. Tatanggapin ng NPA ang order at sila lang ang nag-iimplement. Ang tunay na kalaban ay ang CPP. Sila ang nag-uutos na putulin ang rubber trees sa Agusan, patayin ang mga baboy, maghagis ng granada at iba pang tactical offensives at terroristic attacks,” Cruz said.
“Kasi may hukumang-bayan sila, kangaroo court. Kung ano man ang gusto nilang i-implement ng NPA, ‘yon ang susundin ng NPA. Hindi nga nila (NPA) alam bakit nila ginawa ,” he said.
‘Mainit na ulo ni Ka Oris’
To dismantle the CPP, Cruz said, the government would need to execute legal actions against the communist group.
He lauded the returnees for deciding in favor of the government, their families and themselves.
He also hoped that there would be more surrender ceremonies in the future.
Cruz also hopes that the cash assistance would help the former rebels to start a new beginning.
He said with the surrender of 36 rebels, “I’m sure, mainit na ang ulo ni Ka Oris (Ka Oris must be cranky now).”
“Kasi watak-watak na sila. Sira na ang kanilang formation (Because they’re fragmented now. Their formation is crushed),” he added.
War won without fighting
4ID Commanding General Ricardo R. Visaya said the “Pagbabalik-Loob Ceremony” marked another milestone in the military’s quest for peace.
“This event where 36 regular members of the NPA with 42 firearms is one of the most significant activities we have ever had at 4ID. A true manifestation that war can really be won even without fighting. This is what we call winning the peace, the essence of Bayanihan. Beyond doubt, it takes cooperation of all to make a difference, to make things happen. This we owe to our Bayanihan teams that are deployed in the barangays,” Visaya said.
Visaya said the laying down the high-powered firearms has been a sign of the rebels’ submission to the government. They also vowed to support the government’s effort to convince their comrades who are actively participating with the NPA in the mountains and “being persuaded by sweet promises of the rebel organization.”
A certain “Reynard” who gave his testimonies before high-ranking officials of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and local government executives Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano, Agusan del Sur Governor Adolf Edward Plaza and Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, said he never experienced a good life in the struggle.
The families, Reynard said, could not easily visit them or for them to visit their families in their communities.
“Whenever our families could visit us, the movement would tell sweet promises who eventually were persuaded to join,” Reynard said.
He is also disgusted with their commanders who would only bury dead rebels in knee-deep in the ground.
“Katong samaran nga kaya pa madala, dalhon namo. Pero gikasakit nako kay kung mamatay mi, ilubong lang mi tuhod lang ka lawom,” Reynard said.
Behind all the hardships in the mountains, they were also told to remain patient as the movement’s goal to changing the government into a communist-run state where everyone will be equal is almost near.
Reynard surrendered in November 2012. He married a comrade and was blessed with a child. Now, he would be using the cash assistance to begin life anew.
Peace to boost tourism
Emano, for his part, said achieving peace and order in the two regions would be very beneficial for the people. It would be very beneficial for Misamis Oriental which flagship project is eco-tourism.
Emano said he would not have attended the ceremony due to another important occasion, but when he noted that it relates to peace and order, he cancelled all his appointments that day.
Moreno, for his part, also lauded the former rebels for laying down their arms and return to the folds of law.
“Congratulations to the former rebels for their decision to come back to the mainstream community. Congratulations also to the police and the AFP for reaching out. They could certainly have a better future in joining the mainstream society,” he said in his speech.
Moreno looks forward to an insurgency-free Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions.
Plaza hopes for a partnership with the former rebels and the government to develop the province. “Insurgency is not the key to development.”
Captain Christian Uy, 4ID spokesperson, said the former rebels would likely become regular soldiers if they would be qualified.
"They can also become members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in their communities."