The communist New People’s Army (NPA) continued to dwindle in numbers as more than 300 rebels voluntarily surrendered to the government in January alone, the military yesterday claimed.
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said a total of 326 rebels surrendered to the government from January 1 to 31 this year.
“The unprecedented number of surrenders is attributed to the call of President and AFP Commander-in-Chief Rodrigo Duterte on the rebels, as well as the hardship and sense of betrayal experienced by the returnees in staying with the NPA,” he stressed.
Noteworthy among the former rebels, Garcia said, was Gemma Quiroga, 35, of Davao Oriental who surrendered to the 28th Infantry Battalion (IB) last January 27.
“She was a squad medic of the NPAs operating in Davao Oriental and was also designated as chairperson of Anakpawis, a known leftist organization, in Mati City,” the military official added.
Five rebels also surrendered to the 25th IB in Compostela Valley on January 29, including a 16-year-old alias RM.
“This is the latest case of NPA recruitment of minors which has already been documented in the past,” Garcia stressed.
The military said seven NPA rebels from Arayat, Pampanga, surrendered last January 30 and nine from Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, last January 28. Ten other members of NPA operating in Bicol also surrendered this month.
This adds up to the mass surrenders of seven NPA regular members and 35 members of Militia ng Bayan operating in Balud, Masbate, last January 21.
“The AFP leadership congratulates its various units on the ground for the effective use of military pressure against the NPAs, as well as in their humane treatment of the former rebels,” Garcia said.
“The AFP hopes that the influx of surrenderees will encourage other rebels to lay down their arms, abandon violent extremism and embrace the peaceful path toward change,” he added.
The government is offering livelihood and financial assistance to rebel returnees to help them in joining mainstream society.
Apart from surrendering NPA rebels, there are also communist fighters being killed during the conduct of focused military operations against them throughout the country since the peace talks bogged down last year.
The President has tagged the NPA as terrorist group after he suspended peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front after NPA rebels continued to launch atrocities despite the ongoing talks.