DAVAO CITY -- A 28-year-old mother who abandoned the New People’s Army (NPA) over the weekend was finally reunited with her four children on Wednesday at the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan, this city.
Mylene, whose identity was withheld for security reasons, cried when she saw her children and her mother-in-law who hugged her.
Mylene surrendered to the Army's 67th Infantry Battalion (67IB) on Sunday (January 20) following an encounter with government troops in the Davao Oriental town of Cateel.
Abandoned by her comrades, she sought the help of village officials and turned herself in to the 67IB, headed by Lt. Col. Jake Obligado.
Mylene said her journey with the communist rebellion started in 2011 when she joined her husband Michael as a medic for the NPA's Guerrilla Front 25 operating between the boundaries of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces.
She said she became inactive from the rebel movement in 2015 so that she could raise her children. When her husband died in an encounter sometime last year, Mylene said she was again recruited to the rebel group and left her children to the care of her mother-in-law.
“I was not sure who killed him. The NPA told me the government soldiers,” she said.
“It was difficult. I was only a housewife and my husband only earned little from odd jobs,” she added, insisting that she and her husband joined the NPA because of the promised financial support.
However, Mylene said the financial assistance only lasted for a while, and the family was soon starving in the mountains -- sometimes moving around for days with no food.
Mylene said she regretted the day she left her children, saying she did not expect her children to understand her decisions.
Mylene was also reunited with three other comrades, 19-year-old Rex, 18-year-old Loloy and 16-year-old Cindy -- the three were NPA regulars who surrendered separately to the 67IB recently.
Obligado said their surrender -- especially of Mylene and Cindy who were medics -- was a big loss to the NPA, which he said has been weakened with the steady stream of departures of its members in recent months.
Obligado attributed the surrender of many NPA members and supporters to the government's approach to addressing poverty in far-flung communities.
“Kung military solution lang hindi namin magawa (A military solution can't simply do it. A good whole-of-nation approach will solve the insurgency,” the Army official said in an interview on Wednesday.
Obligado said Davao Oriental, for instance, has a good community support program initiated by the local government units.
The provincial government, he said, has programs for health, infrastructure, disaster preparedness, education, and livelihood for rebel returnees.
Davao Oriental also has a Happy Home, a facility where former rebels can access training for livelihood and other services.
Since February 2017 to January 2019, Obligado said the 67IB has already received about 150 NPA surrenderers.