NPA surrenderer: ‘We thought we’re fighting the good fight’
MANILA, Philippines — Words of regret filled a room at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame on Monday, where 20 New People’s Army (NPA) surrenderers were presented to the media.
The former communist rebels, including their leader “Ka Ruben,” all wore masks during the press conference. Police said the group had surrendered in the municipality of Kalayaan in Laguna over the weekend and turned-over 12 high-powered firearms and ammunition.
“Kami ay nagpursigi dahil sa hirap na nararanasan po namin sa bundok na akala namin ay tama ‘yung aming mga pinaglalaban, pero sa bandang huli noong aming malaman ay walang patutunguhan. Hindi namin alam kung sino ang pinaglalaban namin,” Ka Ruben told reporters.
(We persevered because of the hardship we experienced in the mountains where we thought we were fighting for what is right, but in the end we learned it does not lead anywhere. We do not know for whom we were fighting for.)
— Cathrine Gonzales (@CGonzalesINQ) January 14, 2019
Ka Ruben said they have been aspiring to lay down their firearms and surrender to the government, but said they doubted after they received reports that some civilians have experienced abuse from the military in the previous years.
“Nagpapasalamat [kami] dahil mainit po ang kanilang pagtanggap sa amin dito sa pagbaba namin [sa bundok at paglapit] sa mga kapulisan. Akala namin kami ay ikukulong, sasaktan, ngunit hindi po,” he said.
(We are grateful because the police received us warmly as we went down from the mountains and approached the police. We thought we will be jailed or hurt, but we were not.)
Away from their families, Ka Ruben said they wanted to surrender due to hardships they have been suffering in their hideouts in the mountains.
“Napakahirap at isa pa, malayo po kayo sa pamilya ninyo (It’s really hard and besides, you are also away from your family),” he said.
To date, the number of communist rebels who have surrendered to the government from July 1, 2016 up to December 28, 2018 was at 8,367, according to data from the Department of the Interior and Local Government. This number excludes surrenderers after December 28, including Ka Ruben’s group.
Of the 8,367 surrenderers, 1,207 were so-called regulars of NPA, while the rest were from Militia ng Bayan, Sangay ng Partido sa Lokal, and other underground mass activists.
NPA still has around 3,600 members across the country, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr. said.
In Calabarzon, there are 169 NPA rebels, according to PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde.
Albayalde said Ka Ruben’s group would benefit from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), which is part of the Duterte administration’s approach to ending the 50-year-old communist insurgency in the country.
ECLIP provides former rebels with P15,000 cash assistance, P50,000 livelihood assistance, compensation for surrendered firearms, psycho-social support, skills training, shelter, and other forms of aid such as legal, employment, and medical assistance.
Albayalde lauded the surrender of Ka Ruben’s group to the government as a “very good move” and “wise decision.”
“They now enjoy state-guaranteed liberty to lead normal lives with their families,” he said. /kga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.