TALACOGON, Agusan del Sur, Sept. 17 - Some 321 former mass supporters and members of the New People's Army (NPA) withdrew their support to the terrorist group as they affirmed their allegiance to the government during the Peace Rally and Mass Withdrawal Ceremony on September 15, 2020 at the Esperanza National High School Gymnasium, Poblacion, Esperanza, this province.
The former mass supporters and members composed of 29 regular members, 80 Militiang Bayan members, 12 supporters, 151 mass organization members, 23 contacts, and 26 couriers with a total of 321 Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) lie-low members, mass organization members and supporters of Guerilla Front (GF) 88, GF89 and GF4B of Northern Central Mindanao Regional Command (NCMRC), all are residents of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, voluntarily withdrew their support to the CPP-NPA-NDF and subsequently denounced the atrocities and exploitation of the terrorist group in their community.
"Daku akong pagmahay sa akong pag-uban sa walhong grupo, ug karon gusto na kong mupahulay ug magpuyo nga malinawon uban ang akong pamilya (I regret joining the left-leaning group, and now I wanted to live peacefully with my family)", alias Rey said, a former UGMO member.
The mass withdrawal was made possible by the Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC) headed by Mayor Leonida M. Manpatilan, through the effort of the 26th Infantry (Ever Onward) Battalion, Philippine Army in conducting its Community Support Program (CSP) in conflict-affected areas (ConAAs) in the said municipality which aims to help the community identify their common issues and to bring to the attention of the local government unit (LGU) for appropriate actions.
Mayor Manpatilan, said the presence of these terrorists is a threat to the security as they instill fear to people in the communities and kill civilians who contradict their propaganda. "But today, I am happy to commend all of you for coming back to the fold of law without fear and hesitation," she added.
The LGU-Esperanza also granted financial assistance to former NPA members during the said activity. "We are now peace partners and rest assured that the LGU-Esperanza will help you in providing what you need to start a new life," Manpatilan underscored.
The national government expedites the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 of the "Institutionalizing the Whole of the Nation Approach to End Local Communist Armed Conflict" asserting that all government agencies shall prioritize the delivery of basic services and social development in conflict-affected areas and vulnerable communities purposely to elevate poverty situation which has become the root cause of enemy recruitment and manipulation of the CTGs.
Meanwhile, Agusan del Sur Governor Santiago B. Cane, Jr., commended the LGU-Esperanza and the 26IB for their collaborative efforts with the PTF-ELCAC in ending insurgency towards a more peaceful and more developed ADS. "The Philippines has only one flag, the burning of the communist flag signifies your submission to the government. We only have one government, we only have one flag, we only have one Philippines, and we have that democracy. With that, I commend the partnership of LGU-Esperanza and the 26IB for their persistence in our quest for peace and development in our province," he said.
Lt. Col. Reynald Romel A. Goce, Commanding Officer of 26IB, also lauded the LGU-Esperanza for its untiring support to the unit's Civil Military Operations (CMO) activities. Likewise, he gratefully welcomed the 321 former mass supporters and members in their fearless decision to go back to the mainstream society. "We sympathize with the NPA supporters who have already realized the deception of this terrorist group, that is why our doors remain open in accepting them back to the fold of the law," he bared.
"We re very grateful that due to our continuous effort in reaching out to our fellow citizens who support the NPA, they are now able to realize the futility of their armed struggle and geared with the support of our local government. We are encouraging all other supporters and members of NPA to surrender now because you deserve a better life," Lt. Col. Goce added. (1Lt. Percival Carido, CMO, 26IB/PIA-Agusan del Sur)