Samar cops tapped for ‘peace’ missions in red-free villages
TACLOBAN CITY—At least 325 police personnel were deployed to the towns of Mapanas and Palapag, both in Northern Samar province, as part of the peace and development campaign of the government.
The police personnel, who came from the Eastern Visayas regional office of the Philippine National Police, were to be assigned in the interior villages of Mapanas and Palapag which have been earlier declared as insurgency-free, according to Police Brig. Gen. Vincent Calanoga, chief of the region’s police office.
The policemen were sent starting last Thursday to Barangays Naparasan and Quezon, both in Mapanas; Barangays Osmeña, Bagacay, Capacujan, Sangay and Cabatuan, all in Palapag.
Their primary task is to make villagers feel the presence of police authorities in their midst ready to respond to and address their concerns.
During their six-month assignment, the policemen were tasked to enhance community engagement, counter the propaganda of the communist rebels, assist the delivery of government services and secure the ongoing implementation of barangay development projects, said Calanoga.
They will also employ approaches that will bring government services closer to isolated and disadvantaged areas, and in turn, encourage the communities to totally abandon armed conflict and embrace a duly established democratic government.
Both the PNP and the military have considered Northern Samar as the “last bastion” of the insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas, where, they said, one guerilla front remains to be active.
On Friday, military officials in the region presided over a ceremony involving two members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and 12 militia members based in Eastern Samar who have returned to the fold of the law, which they considered as a sign of the weakening of the communist armed group in the province.
The NPA rebels and their militia members also turned over several firearms consisting of two M16 rifles, one .30-caliber Ml carbine, two .45-caliber pistols, one .38-caliber revolver and two antipersonnel mines to the Philippine Army’s 78th Infantry Battalion based in Borongan City.
Joining them in their decision to return to the folds of the law were 61 of their civilian sympathizers, all from Barangay San Andres, Borongan City.
As a sign of their decision to leave the communist armed group, they took an oath of allegiance to the government in the presence of top Army officials led by Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, the commanding officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade (IB), and Col. Allan Tria, the commanding officer of the 78th IB.
Borongan City Mayor Jose Dayan Ivan Agda was also present during the event.
Vestuir said that the “mass surrender” of the former rebels and their sympathizers will result in more surrender and in the process, help end the insurgency problem in Eastern Samar and other parts of Samar Island, areas under the control of his brigade.
Not mere talk
He urged the remaining active NPA rebels to yield their arms and return to the folds of the law.
“Your withdrawal of support and oath of allegiance to the government were not just a mere talk nor a piece, written on paper. We should be truthful in ending our support to the communist terrorist group, we should cut the connection of the barangay to the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front). Let us make our community inhospitable to the CPP-NPA-NDF,” Vestuir said during the ceremony.
He stressed that the people in the communities “no longer welcome” the presence of NPA rebels in their villages, as these residents had been active in alerting authorities of the presence of armed men in their areas as well as where they hide their firearms.
Agda also expressed his gratitude to the former rebels and their sympathizers for “finally decid[ing] to return your trust and support to the government.”
“Expect that the city government has programs intended for you,” the mayor added. INQ