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BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Two of the missing youth activists in Cagayan were presented Friday, June 2, in a government press conference at the sub-provincial Capitol in Lal-lo town, along with other rebel surrenderees in the province.
Michael Cedrick Casano and Patricia Nicole Cierva were among the 20 described as former rebels who took their “oath of allegiance” before Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba and other members of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) to formalize their surrender.
In an urgent bulletin on May 25, human rights group Karapatan Cagayan Valley said soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade arrested the two in Barangay Cabiroaoan, Gonzaga, on May 18. This prompted several organizations, including the University of the Philippines Manila, to urge authorities to surface them and respect their rights.
No honor in surrender
During the program, officials of the PTF-ELCAC gave Casano and Cierva time to talk.
Casano, identified as the former secretary of the East Front Committee in Cagayan, acknowledged the government’s counterinsurgency efforts.
“Ang karangalan ngayong araw ay wala sa amin dahil sabi nga nila ang mga mandirigma at mga kumander, ang karangalan nila ay wala dito sa pagsuko kundi nandun hanggang sa kamatayan. Kaya ang karangalan ay ibinibigay natin sa mga tropa ng Armed Forces of the Philippines at ng PNP (Philippine National Police),” Casano said.
(The honor does not belong to us today because there is no honor in surrender for warriors and commanders; for them, honor is with death. That is why we honor the AFP and PNP troops today.)
He acknowledged that the focused military operation in the province and the efforts of the NTF-ELCAC gave them difficulties.
“Iti panawen nga kasangsangok dagidiay nangala kanyak, pwede pa naman sanang pumalag, pero siempre, sa proseso noong, siguro resulta na din ng pagkawala ng iba naming mga kasama ay ang will to fight ay nawala. Kaya yun ang dahilan kung bakit ako nandito,” Casano said.
(When I faced my captors, I could have struggled, but in the process, and with the loss of several comrades, I lost my will to fight. That is the reason why I am here.)
Peace based on justice
He said NTF-ELCAC made their task more complicated, an “impediment in our revolutionary work.”
However, he stressed that while the current government tactics might effectively slow the rebels’ progress, it is not the solution to achieving peace.
“Ang kapayapaan na hinahangad nating lahat ay hindi natin masusukat sa pagkawala ng labanan, Ang kapayapaan ay masusukat kung yung tiyan ng mamamayan ay hindi na nagaalburuto. Kaya yung kapayapaan na gusto natin ay yung kapayapaang nakabatay sa katarungan,” he added.
(We cannot measure the peace we aspire for by the absence of war. Peace is measured if the people have sufficient food to eat. The peace we want is a peace based on justice.)
Casano and Cierva said that letting go of the principle they had stood for years would not be easy, but they acknowledged that they could always continue to help differently.
“Sino ba ang may ayaw sa kapayapaan, yung kaunlaran? Magkakaiba lang naman ang perspective depende kung nasaang side… Bagamat hindi na sa ganoong pamamaraan, magpapatuloy pa rin naman ang ganoong hangarin,” Cierva said.
(Who does not want peace or development? Perspective differs depending on what side you are on. Though it will no longer be like the same means, our aspirations will remain.)
The two thanked the military for treating them well during captivity, saying they were not maltreated or coerced. They also expressed gratitude to all those who called and campaigned for their surfacing.
“We appreciate yung kanilang [efforts] sa personal, naappreciate yung pagkalinga sa amin. Siempre madanaganda no anya ti sasasadaen mi iti panawen a saanda ammo no sadinno ti ayanmi,” said Casano.
(Personally, we appreciate their efforts and their care for us. Of course, they are concerned about our welfare because they do not know where we are.)
“Nagpapasalamat din po kami sa maayos namang pagkanlong sa amin. Daydiay ti maysa a concern dagiti amammomi idiay ruar… We cannot blame them for their concern, kaya ganun na lang din ang kanilang efforts sa kanilang campaign para hanapin kami,” Cierva said.
(We thank them [the military] for their proper treatment during our custody. That is one of the concerns of those we know from the outside… We cannot blame them for their concern, which is why they exerted all efforts for the campaign to find us.)
“Kami po ay honored that you have surrendered your will to fight and you have welcomed into your heart the will to go back to the government, to your families. Isa pong magandang example yan na nakikita natin sa bible,” said Lieutenant General Fernyl Buca, commander of the Northern Luzon Command.
(We are honored that you have surrendered your will to fight, and you have welcomed into your heart the will to go back to the government (and) to your families. That is one good example that we see in the bible.)
He said the surrender campaign does not end with their presentation and oath, urging those who surrendered to work for peace. – Rappler.com