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Surrender of more communist rebels signifies continued progress in Sultan Kudarat

The ongoing trend of communist rebels surrendering in Sultan Kudarat province shows no sign of slowing down, as six regular members recently chose the path of peace and renounced armed insurgency.

They made their decision known by relinquishing their firearms to the Municipal Task Force-ELCAC and the 37th Infantry (Conqueror) Battalion in the Municipality of Kalamansig, a coastal town in Sultan Kudarat province.

Created by virtue of Executive Order No. 70 signed by former President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was adopted by the local governments, aimed "to attain inclusive and sustainable peace through intensified development and other peace-building initiatives in conflict-affected and vulnerable communities" using the whole-of-nation approach.     

The local task force ELCAC of Kalamansig town, chaired by Mayor Joaquin Concha (middle), receive six communist terrorist group (CTG) members who chose to surrender with their high-powered firearms due to exhaustion from hiding and the relentless operations of government forces. (Photo: LGU Kalamansig)

The former members of the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) were warmly received by the chairman of Kalamansig MTF-ELCAC, Mayor Joaquin Concha.

As a gesture of goodwill, they received initial financial and food assistance from the local government unit (LGU) of Kalamansig, according to the Kalamansig Information Office.

It added that these former rebels (FR) are now in the process of availing themselves of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which aims to reintegrate them into mainstream society.

During the presentation of the former rebels, Mayor Concha underscored the positive role played by the military and police in local communities.

"Their presence not only helps maintain peace and order but also facilitates the delivery of essential services, particularly to indigenous peoples," Mayor Concha said.

This support network is vital for rebel returnees seeking to rejoin lawful society, the local chief executive added.

LGU Kalamansig Municipal Task Force-ELCAC chair Mayor Joaquin T. Concha assures the former lady rebel, who had once lived in the jungles, of LGU support and the chance to live normally as a resident of the locality. (Photo: LGU Kalamansig)

Brigadier General Michael Santos, the commander of the 603rd Brigade, commended the 37th IB for their relentless efforts in assisting the six rebel returnees.

The official assured the public of the military's commitment to upholding peace and order, applauding the active cooperation of the LGUs in the campaign against terrorist groups.

The event was attended by key figures, including 37th Infantry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, First Scout Ranger Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ranier Mabus, Vice Mayor Leslie Caberte, ELCAC Focal Person Socorro Lanto, Municipal Administrator Gerry Dela Cruz, Sangguniang Bayan Member Fe Caang, and Kalamansig Municipal Police Station PMSgt. Sherwin Norbe.

As a tangible sign of their commitment to peace, the former rebels surrendered three assorted firearms, including two M16A1 rifles and an Uzi 9mm machine gun.

Meanwhile, another batch of CTG members also surrendered to the 37th IB at Camp Betita, Barangay Tibpuan, Lebak town, also in Sultan Kudarat province.

The Philippine Army's 37th Infantry Battalion receives three communist rebels who surrender to the military on August 27, 2023, at Camp Betita, Barangay Tibpuan, Lebak town, in Sultan Kudarat province, in exchange for government assistance and living peacefully with their families and friends. (Photo: 6th Infantry Division)

The three surrenderers also brought their firearms and other war paraphernalia, consisting of a 5.56 mm Bushmaster M16A1 rifle, a SMG 9mm Uzi, and a 5.56mm Colt M16 rifle, as they yielded to the military on August 27.

They will also receive assistance from the Lebak local government as allowed under the E-CLIP, including remuneration for the surrendered firearms, if applicable.

The E-CLIP intends to offer financial and livelihood support, along with other forms of help, to FRs who have made the decision to give up armed resistance and return to mainstream society.

Lt. Col. Baldomar said the former rebels were members of the Beijing Platoon, SRC Daguma Front.

The military cited “gutom, pagod, hirap at ang pangungulila sa kanilang mga mahal sa buhay [hunger, fatigue, and hardship, including missing their loved ones]” as the primary reasons for their surrender.

Recounting their plight as members of the New People’s Army, the surrenderers told the military that their armed warfare against the government no longer has a sensible direction and that their movement is gradually disintegrating as a result of continued dialogue and intensified military offensives.

Addressing the former rebels, Major General Alex Rillera, commander of the 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division and Joint Task Force Central, said: “Inyo ng nakikita ang kaibahan kung kayo ay tutugon sa layuning kapayapaan ng ating pamahalaan, ligtas kayong mamuhay na kasama ang inyong mga mahal sa buhay, kaya patuloy ang aking panawagan sa mga kasamahan ninyo na magbalik-loob na sa gobyerno at tulungan nating paunlarin ang ating bayan.”

[Now, you are seeing the difference that if you respond to the goal of peace of our government, you can live safely with your loved ones; hence, I continue to call on your colleagues to return to the fold of law and help us make our nation progressive.]

He also lauded the 37IB, which is under the 603rd Brigade, for their courage and unrelenting efforts to preserve peace and order in their areas of responsibility.

The surrender of former rebels not only highlights the continued progress in addressing insurgency in the barangays and municipalities but also showcases the collaborative efforts of various stakeholders in working towards lasting peace and development in the province and the entire Soccsksargen region. (ACA – PIA Sultan Kudarat)

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