Army dangles vaccines for NPA surrender
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — A military official in Mindanao has dangled access to COVID-19 vaccination to entice communist rebels to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.
Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the Armed Forces of the Philippines was willing to provide vaccines to the insurgents “if they will decide to abandon the armed struggle and cooperate with us.”
The 4ID covers Northern Mindanao and the Caraga regions.
Brawner said the military would even “share the vaccines intended for our soldiers.”
The offer came as seven of 14 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels arrested and another who was killed following separate clashes with soldiers in Bukidnon province last week tested positive for the virus.
Of the 10 NPA fighters, among them a minor, arrested after an hourlong firefight on Sept. 8 in San Fernando town, three were found to be infected with COVID-19.In the Sept. 8 encounter, four rebels were killed.
A rebel killed in a gunfight in Talakag town on Sept. 9 and three of four NPA fighters—two of them children—arrested on Sept. 10 after a clash in Valencia City also tested positive for the virus.
Brawner said all seven rebels had undergone reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. A wounded rebel who underwent surgery on Sept. 11 was also found infected with the Delta variant of the virus.
“Many in the NPA ranks possibly have COVID-19 as evidenced by the positive test results of the captured and dead … I would like to inform them that COVID-19 does not choose who it infects,” Brawner said.
He appealed to rebels to surrender and abandon the armed conflict, especially now that “the country is currently confronting an unseen enemy that is even more serious, deadly and exempts no one.”
“I am personally appealing to Jorge Madlos, alias Ka Oris, and his group to return to the peaceful path now and go down from the mountains so that they can be given vaccines and proper medical attention,” Brawner said.
Bukidnon has recently seen a surge of virus infections. On Tuesday, the province logged 304 new cases, accounting for 43 percent of Northern Mindanao’s 699 new infections that day.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
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.