Duterte meets with surrendered communist couple in Davao City
DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday met with Noel Legazpi, spokesperson of National Democratic Front (NDF) in the Far South Mindanao Region (NDF-FSMR), and his wife, Wendy Bendalian, at the Matina Enclaves here – both of whom surrendered to the military in Koronadal City on Jan. 15.
Media was not allowed to cover the meeting, but sources said Duterte was elated at the decision of the couple to surrender.
One of the sources said the President had praised the couple for doing the right thing as continuing to fight the government would have been futile.
Duterte had been calling on communist rebels to surrender, saying they would get houses and jobs if they do instead of dying for a “lost cause.”
In December, he also vowed to “protect” rebels who would yield.
Legazpi, also known as Ka Efren Aksasato, voluntarily surrendered with the help of South Cotabato officials, according to Lt. Col. Benjamin Leander, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion.
He said 58-year-old Legazpi had served as NDF-FSMR spokesperson for the past 20 years while Bendalian was the chief medic of the medical team of the New People’s Army.
The FSMR covers the provinces of Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sarangani, and parts of Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.
“He has been in the movement for 26 years already,” Leander said.
Leander said the couple’s surrender pushed through after months of negotiations with the help of South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.
“Governo Fuentes had helped a lot in convincing Ka Efren to come down,” Leander said.
He said the surrendered rebel leader had told him that he had grown tired of running away from government forces.
“He just wanted to live peacefully,” Leander added. “I hope his surrender will encourage other rebels to come down.”
Leander also said Legazpi had told him that the revolutionary struggle waged by the CPP-NPA was now doomed to fail because the government presence was already being felt by those in rural areas.
Aside from meeting Legazpi, Duterte was also scheduled to meet US-based gastroenterology specialist Dr. Pedro Dayrit, whom he had befriended years back.
He was also scheduled to attend the reunion of the Ateneo de Davao High School Class of 1961 later Saturday.
Duterte was part of the Class of 1961, along with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. But he was kicked out of school and graduated instead from the Holy Cross of Digos High School, now Cor Jesu. –With a report from Edwin Fernandez /atm
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