Friday, November 1, 2013

35 Former NPA Rebels Return to Government Fold; 9 Confess They Were Minors When Recruited

From the Website of AFP Story Links:

Published: 30 October 2013
CAMP GENERAL EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomes thirty five former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels including a minor who will formally return to the government fold and join mainstream society through the government’s Gun for Peace and Social Integration Program.

These surrenderees will receive financial assistance from the Gun for Peace Program (GPP) of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) with the corresponding amount depending on the type of their firearms surrendered.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz, Commander, Eastern Mindanao Command will preside over tomorrow’s ceremony at Headquarters, 4ID, Camp Evangelista, Cagayan De Oro. He will be joined by representatives from OPAPP.

GPP offers cash incentives to NPA members who will surrender with their firearms to the government and grab the big opportunity to start a new life away from the dangers of the armed conflict. The amount of money varies from P2,000 – P10,000 for homemade firearms to P388,500 for heavy machine gun.

“We in the 4th Infantry Division are very much happy to welcome our brothers and sisters who have finally decided to return to the folds of the law. We know that they have been led a life full of hardships they endure while they were still in the mountains fighting against their brother Filipinos. We are very thankful to them that they give up their arms and start living a normal life back to their loved ones and families,” Brig. Gen. Visaya said
“We will encourage other members of the rebels who are still in the movement to come down from the mountains, lay down their arms and reunite with loved ones back into the mainstream of our society because our government is truly working for the Filipino people of which they are a part,” he added.

All of the 35 surrenderees were regular members of the NPA rebels operating in the hinter areas of Caraga and Region 10, composed of 17 individuals from Agusan del Sur, six from Bukidnon, six from Surigao del Sur, three from Surigao del Norte, two from Agusan del Norte and one from the province of Misamis Oriental. 

The surrenderees brought along with them 31 assorted high powered firearms to include: AK 47’s, M14, M16A1, Garand rifles, cal. 30 carbine and a Squad automatic weapon (SAW) and 8 low powered firearms to include SMG’s cal.45 pistols and a caliber 38 revolver.

The most high-ranking surrenderee, Eleuterio Casal also known as Nolan is 58 years old and former Guerilla Front-34 Secretary/Adviser, Field Guerilla Unit, Field Command 34, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee. He said that he was tired and wanted to join the mainstream society and start a new life. He also said that life while in the NPA is very hard.
Like Casal, Roland Barrios, 25 years old surrendered because of hardships while in the rebel group. He said he did not gain anything beneficial from the NPA but hardships and difficulties without proper remuneration contrary to what had been promised to them.  He also didn’t have the luxury of time to visit his family when they badly needed him. In addition, Barrios and his fellow surrenderees also want to avail of the GPP and Social Integration Program of the OPAPP upon learning it through their former comrades who benefited from the program.

Minors When Recruited

Of the surrenderees, 9 confessed to have been recruited as minors by the NPA. Bernabe Domino was the youngest when he was recruited by the rebels at eight years old. He eventually stayed in the NPA for 13 years; he is now 21.  

Gino Mansinogdanan was 15 years old when he was recruited. He is still a minor at age 17. Other surrenderees were Julie Licardo, 16 when recruited; Junrey Canudas, 17 when recruited; Jimmy Ayog, 15 when recruited; Reynante Casal, 13 when recruited; Rolando Fuentes, 16 when recruited; Digo Anti-an,13 when recruited; and Fernando Balili Jr., 15 when recruited. All of them are now adults and stayed in the NPA ranging from two to 24 years.

Recruiting minors has been a part of the NPA’s desperate moves to increase their waning force. They have been known to conduct recruitment from the youth sector as well as from communities of indigenous people. This is why the AFP is paying extra attention to these sectors in order to protect them from recruitment and exploitation by various threat groups.

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