At the same time, 2,510 former allies of the New People’s Army in northern and central Negros towns and cities surrendered and turned in 41 assorted firearms. This also highlighted the Northern Negros Peace Summit hosted by Mayor Melecio “Beboy” Yap that was held at a coliseum in Escalante City, in line with the marking of the Escalante massacre.
Brig. Gen. Eric Vinoya, commander of the newly-formed Joint Task Force Negros, yesterday described the activity as one of the milestones in achieving peace for today that turned the “Escalante massacre tragedy into a peace summit miracle”.
Vinoya said the tragic massacre that took place in Escalante was used by left-leaning organizations to fuel hatred and disgust against the government to push for their wicked agenda.
“This is now time to move on and transform the lesson of the past into our jumping board to a better future. We have been down before, but starting today there is no way to go but up”, he said.
Col. Romeo Baleros, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, expressed his sympathy to the families of the massacre victims, said in a prepared statement that the Philippine National Police apologized for what had been done by their former members in the service.
It is difficult to remove the pain. We are not perfect, as well as our government that also commit mistakes, Baleros said.
The apology was accepted by Janet Patuan-an, one of the injured massacre survivors, during the highlight of the three-day Northern Negros Peace summit, that was the essence of the massacre commemoration.
“This will serve as a signal for everybody to move on and work together towards the attainment of genuine peace and progress”, Capt. Cenon Pancito III, spokesman of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, said.
Pancito said that the Army is not in any way involved in the massacre, but they do accept the fact that the government failed to address the social issues being raised by peasants and the marginalized sector, which prompted them to revolt that time.
He added that the massacre could have been prevented if government forces did not fail to secure and maintain the peace and order, hence, they are asking for forgiveness to lighten the burden of the Filipinos,especially the victims and their families.
“In that way, we can release the load of the past, prevent this from happening again and move forward to a more harmonious and progressive future,” Pancito said.
Stressing that the event is not about forgetting the Escalante massacre, Pancito said it will also serve as a peaceful venue for reconciliation of the various sectors, former rebels and families of the massacre victims, who agreed to move forward by working together to realize a common vision of a violence-free and progressive community.
In the same peace summit, Ka Joros, a self-confessed NPA assassin, also apologized to the families of the victims, that he and his colleagues killed, as ordered by their former superiors in the revolutionary movement.
Rolyn Cabus, Executive Assistant IV/Center for Collaborative Solutions of Escalante City, said that the city government under the leadership of Mayor Yap is doing everything in can.
The Negros Occidental Task Force - ELCAC (End Local Communist Conflict) is also bringing today multiple government services to the 2,510 former NPA allies, through a one-stop-shop of government services dubbed “Dagyawan ng DILG” , to be participated in by various government agencies.
Dagyawan ng DILG aims to deliver basic services of the government closer to the people, address the root causes of insurgency, and bring the armed struggle to its conclusion, Pancito said.
On Thursday, the former NPA allies and their families also availed of medical services from government doctors, and other medical practitioners as well as free medicines and health-related services.